A Calling

It was a pile of bare facts
offered on thumbed A4 papers
She searched it whilst
suffering from acute self-diagnosis

but could only uncover Diverticulitis
there typed out and slid between
other printed sheets
filed in black dust-lined trays

whilst an old boy too-loudly
then too-brightly – grutched
far too-noisily about
his own complaint to a nurse

Consultants’ rooms
are time-flawed monasteries
of waiting – of slow duties – with prayer
and others’ voices bound to

callings to blind-pulled cells
in which our tired priests sit
But this is my wife’s summoning
to another saint-named place

And – again – an absolution follows
That necessary shrift to solve
discomforts set under our skin
and over our lives

and we are lucky – we leave
without having to see higher gods
for a second opinion
This referral is her small miracle

Conquest Hospital

Robert Richard Rollins –
I was born nineteen thirty-four
struggled with the name –

He worried out loud
that he’d forget
the surgeon’s
Egyptian-sounding name

As he was wheeled –
backwards for ease
he again apologised
so profusely to the nurse

for his failure to recall
I forget names –
the consultant …

NHS on Election Day

In Outpatients,
and efficiently
weighed by Julie,
‘blood pressure good’,
then to ECG,
to confirm I am well,

as this country
threatens an ill result,
which will mean
in five years’ time
I will need to pay
a private company,
and shareholders,
for finding me unwell.


There will be a ballot
with outcomes unknown,
but the resulting state
could be one that’ll harm,
it may finally remove
the vestiges of pride
which were the first choice
of the winning side,
that construction of faith,
more real than dead Gods,
off socialist embers
fired after the war.

When you make your mark
it will determine the fate
of the care of your family,
the future price paid.
Each ballot with a cross,
is a kiss for the carers,
a token of love,
for the state which will keep us.
Or leave it, don’t bother,
make a mark for the rich,
and let them get fat
on the illness of kids;
let them turn profits
on dementia, new business,
let them trade shares
in your family’s sickness.

For My Physician

You, with gilt-framed diplomas,
please sit for my dull certificate:
I am to lecture you about pain,
since your grasp is so inadequate.

It is the norm, we are born to screams,
the cuts and tears in every childbirth,
in which all mothers are victims:
Dear physician, you are too averse.

Here I sit in your consulting room,
where you ‘tut’ at me about booze,
as I twist under angered muscles,
my nerve-ends twitch, hurt, adduced.

All the time within my skin,
are such thrusts throughout my frame,
spiked and sliced, in feet and hands –
my digits gloved in pangs again.

When taking notes in my lecture
feel the smooth scribe, no hard design,
unsuited for people like me,
struggling to pen ‘anodyne’.


That underfoot scrape of vinyl
over the higher whisperings and
mutterings from around corners,
as ill trolley wheels, out-of-sync,
rattle off, out-of-sight, carrying stuff
through lazy automated doors,
which compress in slow motion,
those last few seconds before closure;
quick-step nurses and slower assistants
move between rooms and offices,
directing the sat-down, long-waiting,
the late-keeping and the early-attending:
Others, like me, unmoved amongst this.



It enfolds you in its heated fug,
the wheeled threshold, the NHS hug;
we sit and wait in a digit-lit queue,
but old illnesses will still kill us all:

I went for my ‘flu jab: ‘Done in a jiffy
‘You may feel unwell, perhaps a bit sniffy’.
I’m now pricked against influenza’s grab,
at least for a year then Hunt’ll cut back:

November, next, what will be left?
They’ll have turned down the heating,
and give back less: As I fall apart,
so will the state, we are both diseased,
our futures degrade.

Botleys: Loss of an apostrophe

Those red brick villas
on the sloped lawn hill,
with service roads
linking collections
and deliveries
at every odd hour,
where patients walked,
the ones that could,
between the few points
some had known,
only known, since birth,
long-ago baptised
in that place by
the cloyed smell
of cleaning, and of filth
carried over, into them,
the walking, the lain,
the chair-rocked,
a few with head guards,
over those broken minds.


Jewel in the Crown

Rip it off from the past,
sliced on rusty nostalgia,
a span of heritage,
is this truthful disaster,
when history’s lost
pay old craftsmen to make
more bygones-be-bygones,
real genuine fakes:
Bow to the Crown Jewels,
displaced paste from the past,
profited and traded,
‘cross an empire, so vast;
flaunt valuable rocks,
but sell free-to-use jewels,
those men in blue suits
from the right schools.




Desserts of shame!
Cover thine chunks!
Your sugary delights,
they offend Mr Hunt.
Reduce your fats,
you obese puddings,
return to austerity,
to simpler cooking,
to ancient ways,
when sweetness was short,
the poor pot-bellied,
the rich pissed on port:
He’ll ‘save’ the NHS
by cutting it back,
and lighter taxes
for his sweet fat cats.

The Times, 30-09-2016

Speech Therapist

With my therapist,
a genial chap,
we sit and review
my quality of chat;

a bit of a struggle,
with my stinking cold,
an incurable disease,
which has now taken hold:

In the near distance,
two floors below,
a howl of laughter
is loudly let go,

then back to peace,
as my therapist stammers,
r-r-r-repeated advice,
and nice bedside manners.

Nothing On

[Enters stage left]
That click-clack of the
blind man’s walking stick,
and background natter
from the receptionists:

Dove soap on my fingers,
I had washed for the Doctor,
who knows more about me
than I can ever recall,
he is checking my notes,
re-pronouncing the drugs,
which I tend to forget
[Prompt required].

I’m tongue-tarred by the coffee,
sipped before my drive here,
a route of life-threatening lanes,
and I try, try, to recall my script
for this ten minute soliloquy:

A repeat prescription –
to conquer the constant nausea,
my travel-sickness,
even when hardly moving,
my performance then given,
up from the gut.
[Prop – mop]

Our Time Bomb

By our eighth decade,
the correspondent wrote,
over twenty-percent
will succumb
to dementia:

I can see her,
fixed to forgetting,
and sat bed-side,
the frail ‘other half’ left,
shelled, bombed-out.

Will there be enough room,
for so many?
The twenty percent,
to be bed-locked,
to be bed-blocking?

As you avoid
hospice-bound falls,
on shortened stick-ticked walks,
or on a shuffle between rooms,
before the last shuffle begins,

will you be feeling lucky
to be, in your moments,
one of the eighty per cent,
still lucid, but alone,
in your eighties?

Jeremy Hunt, No Cockney Implied

I don’t think I’ve penned
’bout Jeremy Hunt,

It would be,

Offending word-use,
Rhyming a poem,

I can hear the rune,
‘Hunt’, then going..

The distaste such doggerel
Could inflict on your ears:

Perhaps our doctors
Can suture my fears:

Stitch the Hunt tight,
Allow nothing to pass,

Then he will truly
Talk out of his arse.

Speech, After Therapy


The return walk, hobbled together,
From the speech therapist’s advice,
Should encourage me to avoid The Alma,
And other throat-burn-delights.

A short climb up Framfield Road,
Past Old Ale’s 4% call;
My dignity would still remain,
If I had just the one pint pulled ?

Breathing the roadside fumes,
Will surely do for me before a pint?
Or am I pouring distractions,
from the assure of medical advice ?

I am reduced by Austerity’s ardour,
Having lent a fiver to the wife;
There is no cash-point en-route,
So I will forgo that poisonous pint.


Binner – wheeled to departure gates –
an offensive act booking those flights –
Hug-locked – brow-racked – scorching fears –
final-flighted and drops of scare-fared tears –
One-way ticketed for one of the few
to meet the Swiss doctor who will do

Binner reduced – when failing to hang –
takes assurance when death’s bell rang –
Last supped-meal – over pressed white cloth –
as closest friends quit the disciplined voice –
swallowed wine sipped over swallowed tears –
Binner consumes all their fears

The clinic – managed – comfortable – slow –
would allow him – on the last turn a no –
laws – even there – need proof of intent –
a questioning to reckon if death is meant –
Our last lain bed is not often chosen –
its use – not usually the thing we know –

Binner to Debbie – in planned dub-voice –
clarity in this – one last act – one choice


Gone from the clinic – pushed solid-boxed –
Remnants of his self – rolled coroner-locked

What we leave behind never remains –
What we seek to leave is minimal pain –
Difficulty in death is not for the dying –
That awkward state is for those left crying –
Should we leave wakes of tear-run floods
for those we lived with by spilling our blood?

Bravery is found in the judgement of others –
a strained heart broke by his out-living mother
Autumn pulls Binner down with its fall –
he pre-supposed well cheating winter’s hard call

How to Die: Simon’s Choice: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b070jm26 via @bbciplayer

“thank you @MikeBellWrites for a beautiful poem about the remarkable Simon Binner https://t.co/xPHhP8ybuK@Minnow_Films#simonschoice “

— Rowan Deacon (@RowanDeacon) February 13, 2016



Have you breathed in today the low smog of lies,
hung above, blinding, The Sun-darkened isles?

We won’t whine ’bout foul weather fogging us in,
we maintain small insights with screen-swiping.

Tablet-tat is uploaded, and each hour we surf,
bad news is aborted for a fresh royal birth:

Young doctors, low-paid, the left, the long-ill,
re-treated by the barons with lethal press pills.

The Trade Union Bill has been finally read,
our forebear’s blood-ceded, will no more be bled.

We’ll give up clear skies, embrace fogged land-fall,
So now lifting our eyes we will seeing nothing at all.

Minor Injuries

Home, to a greeting child, wrist-wrapped, dog-bit:
Then travel (fast) to an M.I. unit.
The waiting room, a car-crash, filled stiff chairs,
In charge: the triage nurse’s contused stares.

I fill out, biro, an NHS form:
Photocopied boxes ticked, facts informed.
Overhead, thirty inches of TV :
Patients dosed-down with free reality:

‘Loose Women’ (giggling about men in sheds),
Here the nursing staff avoid blocking beds.
My child is soon repaired, by a gowned saint,
The punctures cleaned, with dabbed iodine paint.

Heading back home, child slung and bandaged-tight,
Proud of our small country doing us right:
Him: ‘In America that’ve cost lots!’,
Me: ‘In the UK it’ll soon be lost’.

Harry’s Last Standard

The sepia tone of November has gone
wrote Harry Smith – aged ninety-one –

seeing worn-out – blood-red – poppies as lies –
pinned politic medals on cut-back lives

Dignity – for the aged – the infirm and unwell
should not be hacked so this state can sell

the last shards of a now-curtailed reward –
gained fair in blood – in post-war accord

Death-won promises of a better world –
Instead they insist such respect is culled

On Harry Smith’s lapel no poppy was worn –
For him the Old Wars were still to be won

E 281118

The Best Doctor

I am a General Practitioner,
working through my impatient lists,
queued for me, praying for miracles,
the waiting room (where hope still exists).

I prescribe for common complaints,
but how can I comprehend,
what their listed illnesses feel like:
To their sick-state should I now descend?

The memory-miniature woman,
sitting silently opposite me:
widower (without recent recall),
I am gone from her immediately.

Every new minute is quite foreign,
whilst her past is a vast unlocked house:
dementia devalues this moment:
a flaming disease we never douse.

A small cough-racked child is then offered,
held in vein-traced maternal embrace:
I’ve no idea which is the patient,
I shall drown in my shallow disgrace.

Me, infected, queue-sickened, instead?
I wouldn’t want to suffer their plight:
to live without cures (our common curse),
but to die, tormented, isn’t right.


It was first called ‘Welfare’
by a proud state,
no more ideal,
we are now told to berate:

Ever less likely to be
paid to me,
freelance, with Parkinson’s,
at fifty-three.

Welfare, not there, services sold,
uprooting the ill, the poor, the old:
Any vacuum is filled, so it is said,
but they’ll suffocate welfare until it’s dead:

One nation built high
on the backs of the old,
we should pay more in tax
so our welfare’s not sold.