The handsome brainy research doctor
from Oxford, went round
The Whittington Hospital –
a narrow dark head inside his white collar
his suit jacket over his shoulders like a cape.
Like Vincent Price. He sang an IRA ballad
behind his blue-green mask at 2 a.m.
putting k-wires in a broken finger
he wanted me to join in and I wanted
to be game but it was hard to hum along
with the face of the Indian anaesthetist
over the ventilator. That summer
he killed boredom. And it was funny
in the middle of night, when he’d stick his
inky head behind the cat scanner control
panel and ask if I had a stiff for him
to practice with. Have you found
a stiff yet? I asked one broad fluorescent
day when a woman carrying a white plastic
bucket spoke out from behind us.
I have, she raised her pathologist’s vessel
holding a four-month-old aborted fetus
with Spina Bifida. I volunteered immediately.
I had my reasons to lay out the small
perfectly-formed rubbery doll-like arms and legs
on the X-ray table and no, I would not
have the heart to kill her again if I’d seen her first and
when the Superintendent marvelled that a woman
could do so such a hard job, I wondered when
was the right time to be faint-hearted
because I remembered his refusal
when I’d asked for a chair after
three major bleeds, he said no
I must stand from nine to five because
there was no excuse for laziness, pregnancy
was not an illness. In Africa, women just sit down
under trees to have babies, he said.
original illustration by Dean Lewis