Lady Jane Grey was little more
than a holiday home, a change of air;
Elizabeth Woodville was Long Stay –
students dreaded placement there.
Hers was a thicker atmosphere: moon-fogged
with menace throughout the year.
It’s the Western Australian Blue Mist, Doctor,
or else I’m losing my eyesight.
When a man said he wanted to meditate
it meant he wanted to murder.
Each patient had his own chair
to throw and a needle drawn up
in the clinic. In emergencies we called on
George Eliot and Jane Austen.
It was every man for himself but
you couldn’t confront a delusion.
Alice believes I’m John the Baptist -
well, we’ll just hide all the knives and forks.
Everything signalled something else
that the staff spent hours deciphering
sat underneath No Smoking, while
the former boxer fractured nerves
and the failed actor reeled off verse
after verse of almost authentic Shakespeare.
I could spot functional psychosis
there’s a johnnie stuck up my arse, nurse,
and show empathy at ten paces.
We learnt the types of schizophrenia,
how to defend against knight’s move thinking
and the lineage of English monarchs.
I’m digging up Charles I today
and replanting The Wars of The Roses.
Any slight expansion of insight
was offset by a lack of remorse.
Nobody could bury the hatchet because
we’d forgotten the word for spade.