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This beautiful, elegiac poem has many memorable images (‘to beetle hard-shelled’ is a favourite of mine), but the final line seems to sum up poetry just as much as it does the attitude needed when you join the caring professions. It’s by Beda Higgins and it was published in Poems for the NHS (The Onslaught Press).


When He Qualified

He learnt to juggle hours,
to listen to ghosts, hear confessions,
to pick out nits and sew with dreams.

To patch a memory knit with notions,
to be a mouse, creep in cracks,
to forage and eat shades of grey.

To be wide-eyed day and night
to beetle hard-shelled, to learn
to love the comfort of cold walls.

To be another face in a sea of faces,
to forget what day his birthday is.
To be godless but yearn to pray.


Used with kind permission of  Beda Higgins.