This anthology includes poems about receiving life-saving treatment, about the people who deliver that treatment with empathy and resilience, about friends and family and their intimate journeys and about the impact of both ill-health and the effect of the interventions aimed at curing it. It celebrates the fact that access to medical care doesn’t depend on the lottery of good or bad fortune, and we hope it is a fitting way to mark 70 years of an extraordinary institution.
Reviews Poems for the NHS
Greg Freeman on the Write Out Loud website – ‘Anthologies seem to be coming out thick and fast these days, often supporting the best of causes. Although it’s not possible to review them all, or even report their publication, here is one that certainly deserves a second glance, and not just because of its subject’s closeness to the nation’s heart. It’s the quality of the poems therein, too…’ Read the full review here.
By Lucy Newlyn
When I saw you lying there,
your oxygen-mask slipping,
you were not yourself, but your father –
dead on the Somme.
I was not myself, but a witness to World War One,
and another war impending.
There weren’t enough nurses for the wounded and dying.
The trench was deep, the duck-boards strained
under thick-piled bodies.
Your death-to-come was a tiny pin-point
on a lengthening graph;
your father’s name picked out among the un-numbered.
and I, with my survivor’s guilt, remained by your side
the whole night through to watch it happening.
Then I became a prophet-healer,
chosen as the Special One to save the world –
and I was shouting, shouting.
Then I was imprisoned in a ward,
watched by an eye in the door, to stop me escaping.
When I had slept, they let me out to see you.
My kind gaoler, Norah, came with me
to read from The Guardian,
let you know what was happening.
Later, they let me see you alone.
Morning after morning I sat beside you
in your lonely ward.
The nurse squeezed your hand;
a Jamaican said ‘bless’, with a voice
that rose and fell like music.
I read you poems – the ones I loved.
I was sure, once and once only, that you heard me.
Whose death was I mourning, before and after?
Whose story is this anyway –
Yours, or your generation’s passed down to me?
Day after day, outside your window,
a blackbird sang in the tree.
Guy’s Hospital, October 2015
By Natalie Whittaker
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.