Squares, revisited…

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about a woman in hospital that I visited. I was thinking about her recently, and reworked some of my words into a poem- as part of my on going ‘protest poetry’ project. This poem still has more of a narrative quality but here it is.

Argyll and Bute hospital 2



The ward squeaks disapproval at my

polluting presence

The hospital is brand new.


There she is.

After 40 years of patience.

Something went wrong when her husband died.

She was swallowed whole by the grief of it;

Captured in a concrete cocoon.


She was the recipient of all the best psychiatric science;

drugs greyed out her vision;

electric shocks blew holes in her memories.

They even tried psycho surgery in a futile attempt

to scrape grief from her brain

with a scalpel.


And here she remains – toothless, but given to scratching.

Occasionally abusive, but with sense of humour

largely intact.

They say she has behaviour problems, that she is manipulative.

Who wouldn’t be?


She was once a worker, a wife, a mother.

She wore a white cotton dress to picnic once

She loved to dance


Today we meet to stitch bureaucratic blankets for her next bed.

I clear my throat and speak out care-clichés

whilst people in a hurry to look busy

shuffle paper and steal glances at the time passing.


She looks up at the crisp suspended ceiling and cackles.

I hate those bloody


Everything is so square in here.

Put me outside next to the hedge.

Just put me



I follow her gaze to the brown beech hedge.

Out through the square window.

Last year’s dry leaves still rattle on close cropped branches.


And I want to wheel her out there

sit her under the winter sky

wind waving her long grey hair in a curve of protest

against all those bloody awful




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