Friday, January 10, 2020

In The Stepping Down Ward, Brixton, Clinical Waste Bins Holding Our Doors Open

Throughout the night, a figure wearing
A Klu Klux Klan costume is staring
Out from the sick bay opposite mine,
And I risk undoing my scar line
With anything more than muted sobs.
The nurses come in to do their obs,
Brush against my nasogastric tube,
Make me tractable, with the white cube
Of his hood, bed and pillows behind;
But then, like the Kahins who divined
In their utterances of foresight,
I must not cry loudly in the night. 

Thursday, January 02, 2020

He Intervenes Through Our Compassion

He intervenes through our compassion,
As pain and malabsorption ration
Opportunities to write;
Then rousing the carer with my ashen,
Elongated fingers, I fashion
These two queries in the night:
Could you reduce the amount you drink?
How can I mount you, do you think?

After Having Seven Organs Wholly Or Partly Resected

I act the husband, act
The brother, and question whether
My integrity extends to being the son,
Mechanisms missing or welded together
As a deactivated gun
With its housing intact.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

My belly has stopped moving in and out whenever I breathe. The flesh surrounding my misshapen navel is vacuuming inwards, unable to be separated from the intestines behind it; and they are stuck together like the inlet of a balloon that got damp before it could be inflated, pulled by the tumour that is still growing in my kidney. As I look at myself in the mirror, leaning forward with my hands on the sink to gain a fuller breath, I wonder how this could ever be reversed.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

The first comment he makes to me, this eminent consultant surgeon, “We will have to remove your entire upper left quadrant,” I agree to with a strange alacrity. The only interjection I make, as he goes on to enumerate the implicated organs, is to ask: “But how will I eat without a stomach?” My kidney, my spleen, my stomach, bits of my pancreas and bowel are on the consent form he gives me to sign at the end of the consultation. I understand that they may all be removed if necessary, although they won’t know until they open me up.

I never before appreciated the extent to which cancer takes someone over. Not only do you have to endure the disease’s physical assault, but you also rapidly find yourself resisting a social tendency to reduce your identity to the one dimension of someone who has cancer; suddenly being a father, a writer, a lover of dogs and second hand shops is of less currency; and any emotion you express is linked back by others to one of the recognised phases of coping as described in Macmillan handbooks. This social phenomenon happens so quickly, in tandem with the weight loss, and I soon avoid visiting the second hand shops because I don’t know what size trousers will fit me tomorrow, and I can’t visualise myself at all in the future.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Whenever I bump into someone I know in a shop, I immediately tell them what I’ve come to buy: “Oh, hi Helen, I’m looking for a Cornetto,” or, “Hi Naomi, I’m trying to find a conditioner for extremely dry hair.” Sometimes, as with Naomi, they then join in with the search, and experiences are shared, thereby keeping our interaction non-phatic till we part.

Writing as I did, in my style, I came to omit metaphor,
And describe others by mentioning their given names, little more,
When my isolation was what I intended to underscore:
Might this evolution offer insight into who I wrote for
Throughout, when towards the end, the room just dimmed, according to your
Notion of how a room would for someone dying, whereas before
I might have likened that process to something?

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Early Evening in the Flowerpots Garden

Six weeks after the removal of her forelimb and shoulder blade,
Her black fur regrown enough to cover the scar with a crimp,
My dog stands beneath the tree chomping crab apples in the shade —
Elegant as a flamingo, eating them in lieu of brine shrimp.

Yet pink are the ears of the man sitting with his back to the sun;
How long can one thread of web rising with the warm air contain
This settled moment, when now she finds it easier to run;
And will kibbles infused with cannabis oil palliate her pain?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sword Fighting Experiments

Innocence, pleasure, secrecy:
These were the constituents
Of sword fighting experiments,
With my hilt rising to be
Flush against my abdomen;
Where, if all possibilities
Spanned the surface of a sphere,
You might locate its angle near
To variants in degrees
Or the mould of a woman.