Column 05

The National Health Service is one of the UK’s great institutions, but it has its own special kind culture and atmosphere. This poem by Helen Fletcher captures the strange dynamic of institutions that are there to both help and control, that are both intensely personal but also remote bureaucracies. The poem comes from Fletcher’s collection The Lightbulb has Stigmata by The Onslaught Press.


Tea with a Patients’ Advocate

I want to say I know how it feels
To be held down in the night
And silenced
But that would be an inappropriate disclosure.
It’s not like I’m in that young offenders institute,
Where a boy’s wrist was broken
Because he wouldn’t clean a toastie maker.
I can’t complain
They made me safe
To be left.
In A&E, a nurse stayed with me,
Turned off the lights and talked about her son –
But then I was transferred.
I’d rather just stay quiet since I’ve had no more trouble,
I get ward-leave now at weekends,
I can wash that for you.


Used with kind permission of Helen Fletcher and The Onslaught Press.