Doctor Death and the New Faces

Elizabeth Woodville is my first nursing placement,

a spot where a man might be put and forgotten.

Sister Wesson’s routine with every new student

is to introduce the bed corners and curtains

then leave them to chat with some random person.


And so I’m conversing with one Howard Sargent;

he’s sharing a fag with a fellow patient,

who’s called Doctor Death - we’re already acquainted

as he’s allowed out to the pub of an evening.

Howard Sargent isn’t my real name, Howard hisses.


His real name is Mikhail Mikhailovic,

he confides with a defiant emphasis.

A Russian who managed to enter the US,  

with a mission to spy on the enemy

and who’d witnessed the killing of Kennedy.


So, of course, he was given a new face and transported

by spaceship to the Central Hospital, Warwick.

I just kept nodding, occasionally glancing

at Doctor Death, who remained most impassive,

like this was old news with no reason to doubt it.


I meet Sister Wesson back in the office,

and tell her about the face and the spaceship.

She marvels that Howard still harbours these stories.

Check through his case notes, he’s telling porkies,

he’s been hospitalised since the 1940s.


The next day Howard is seen by a medic:

Typical Paranoid Schizophrenic,

suspicious and secretive, sly and dishonest.

He increases the dose of an antipsychotic.

Now when I talk to Howard he’s unresponsive.


In the pub I buy Doctor Death half a Guinness,

he tells me that Howard has taken umbrage,

blaming me that he’s suffering extra dosage,

half asleep, slurred speech, hands can’t stop shaking.

He should know by now not to trust in new faces.





◄ If The Heavens Were Fair



Thu 30th Jan 2020 11:18

Thanks, Greg. Blackest of comedy? I think Villa toiling against Man City at Wembley might beat it.

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Greg Freeman

Wed 29th Jan 2020 23:17

Beautifully crafted, the blackest of comedy.

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