Column 31

In this touching poem we get a real sense of what it’s like to accompany someone through a remedy that can seem worse than the disease. The complex feelings this evokes are perfectly captured in the heartrending, split line ‘please never let this happen/ – I give you water – to me‘. The poem is by Natalie Whittaker from her pamphlet Shadow Dogs, published by ignitionpress, and included in Poems for the NHS (The Onslaught Press).


Guy’s Hospital, October 2015

In the waiting room a game show called The Edge
combines bowling skills with general knowledge.
Nobody watches or changes the channel.
I carry a chewed polystyrene cup

to the ward that’s wired with orange poison.
There’s a woman who looks worse than you,
wearing a cold cap that fuses Tron
with 50s swimwear fashion. Her husband

loiters. I think please never let this happen
– I give you water – to me. Your fingernails
are gone. Outside the window, sunlight streams
through The Shard and London Bridge Station.


Used with kind permission of Natalie Whittaker and ignitionpress.