Jamie Woods, a writer from Swansea, has poetry in Poetry Wales, Ink Sweat & Tears, Lucent Dreaming and elsewhere. With his work centring on experiences of disabilities and cancer, Jamie has been commended in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine 2021, and is now poet-in-residence at the charity Leukaemia Care. His debut pamphlet, Rebel Blood Cells, is available from Punk Dust Poetry.
The Silence of
the Hospital Ward
Silence is elusive, is illusive.
When your head is on the pillow
and you think that it’s close
you complacently relax and it scurries.
The mundane drip of the tap, the one
with handles for elbows
that you’re too far away from to give a nudge off.
The low-level buzz of electric light.
The slow wheeze heart and lung churn of the IV pump
and the siren when it’s nearly run out or you just bump the tube.
Other people’s ringtones, message chimes,
other people’s phone calls. Other people’s conversations.
The excitement of family,
the desperate anger.
The admin of auxiliaries and nurses and doctors,
the gossip of auxiliaries and nurses and doctors.
The driving mechanics, the alarms, the beeps;
blood pressure, oxygen count, your still-beating heart.
Painkillers wearing off.
The screams fly as wraiths through walls and curtains
biting and snatching away dying hope.
At night, at day – no time here, just numbers –
the ward whispers sting with invasiveness,
the rumbles of breathlessness and nasal congestion,
the snores, the moans, hurt like needles.
The shock, the pain, the begging.
The trundle of the drug trolley,
and the screams at night, my God,
the screams at night terrify, terrorise.
Clarion calls for carrion attacks.
Not me, not this time.
Headphones on, I sleep with the spoken word,
smooth voices, TED talks and shipping forecasts,
waking throughout, until Thought for the Day:
unrested, unblessed, undead.
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo
I get flashbacks now
when I step out of the shower
and bury my face in the towel
in the showers at Singleton
the water blasting furiously, too hot,
with a precious locked door
refuge from the dormitories
let myself go,
the raging water and baby shampoo
blanch away the fatigue
from my dying broken skin
cry into the towel
until I’m ready to go back
to a freshly made bed
hospital corners, military precision,
fake smiles distracting from coal-blackened eyes
and I know
I’m not there anymore,
but it’s scalded into my brain and I can’t find
the right type of soap I need
to wash it all away.
Wolf Alice & Camper Van
Beethoven Live at the
Adam Smith Institute
Had a dream last night and everyone was coughing
In therapy today she forgets why we’re here
Tell me about a recent social situation that made you anxious?
I’ve not been in a social situation for the last two years
Everybody’s going out for lunch these days
So jealous of your new-found laissez-faire
I buy tickets for a concert that I’m aching for
But in my scared heart, I know I won’t go.
Resell them at face value in a free-market economy
The Adam Smith Institute must think that I’m ill.
DOORS AT SEVEN. MASKS OPTIONAL. ADMISSION RIGHTS RESERVED.
OVER 18s, WITH WORKING IMMUNE SYSTEMS ONLY.
Last night there were two hundred people in the room.
Walls sweat-shimmered, shoulders condensed, screaming tears,
You’re a Germ, kinetic hormones released.
Words now airborne, choruses viral.
I stay at home in my germ-free convalescence
Playing scratched old records for the left-behind.
The Silence of the Hospital Ward / Johnson’s Baby Shampoo:
Rebel Blood Cells (Punk Dust Poetry)
Wolf Alice & Camper Van Beethoven Live at the Adam Smith
Institute: Poetry Wales (Vol. 58, Issue 1)