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.



◄ Nativity

Wards ►


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Thu 31st Jan 2013 21:09

Fascinating insight Ray.

I love how the title weaves its way through the poem, the names seeming so incongruous for that type of hospital. It also introduces some humour into the poem, and a humour that doesn't undermine the serious nature of the subject matter.

'Nobody could bury the hatchet becausewe’d forgotten the word for spade.'

Your final two lines made me pause for thought. Are you talking about the staff or the patients here?

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