The six foot skinhead, sporting Millwall tats,
sits on his own, minding an empty pram
inside the waiting room where rowdy tots

are building creaking Legoland kingdoms
then swatting them back down like oldschool gods.
He’s turning pages with his calloused thumbs,

a picture book with no big fancy words
about a panda bear at a circus,
which softens his hard man image a tad,

though after he plants a sloppy kiss
onto the cheek his beautiful brown grandson,
I get the feeling he’d still kick my arse,

it’s just that nowadays, he’s got a reason.


Canto CCXL

Okay, daughter dearest, hear this right,
that crazy stuff each side of you is noise.
That crazy stuff in front of you is light.

The warbling beyond our curtain is
a Nigerian couple casting Satan out
of a bed provided by the NHS.

The NHS aren’t devils or devout,
they are the country’s socialist backbone,
the young nurses that once cried “Maggie out!”

are still walking the wards where you were born,
though the moral high ground that they tread
might soon be privatised by George Osbourne

before that hated, heckled Baroness
has sunk into her private trust pillows
to die a premium, elitist death.

Oh dear, I’m talking politics, I know,
it’s yet to stain the mind of your sweet ilk,
but since we’re skin to skin I must disclose

like Thatcher, my man boobs will not give milk.


Labour hasn’t started, so we snatch
whatever sleep we can as hours stream
like fluids through a drip. I keep a watch

for midwives that appear like fleeting dreams
and vanish with the words “I’ll go find out…”
the curtains flutter, they never return.

Before I left at 4am last night,
I heard a newborn’s first cries down the hall.
Despite the rain that sputtered down outside,

the birds on every branch sang loud and shrill.
Right now, a blue partition cuts us off
from the Polish single-mum-to-be’s sad call

for doctors, birthing room and pain relief.
And you, my love, are somehow able to,
curl up against the chaos and drift off.

I self administer an espresso.

Canto CCI

Two images made the virtual rounds this week;
the young and handsome viral video star,
naked, pounding his fists on the sidewalk;

the stricken footballer, laid on the grass,
surrounded by men in yellow jackets,
the stadium hushed, his fellow footballers

stripped of their passion and hubris.
A few days back, in the hospital corridor,
I saw the stricken roll by on stretchers,

unconscious and unresponsive but for
the slight and shallow passage of their breath.
I thought of all those steel objects of war

displayed in the Museum of Mass Death
(its proper name’s an insult to billions)
and whispered to myself that small word, “health.”

Our lives are short as candles and as thin
as the smoke that they puff out when extinguished.
The mind is just three pounds of squidgy brain.

There never was a self to begin with.


Despite the countless little drafts of blood
or the research fellow’s vulturelike expression
as she pressed the ultrasonic hand piece hard

into your bladder; despite the frustration
of waiting for consultants to arrive,
letters that never reached their destination;

though Cathedrals command a boundless love
with opulent altars and huge commissions—
it is this hotchpotch hospital that proves

the true goodness of the human condition.

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