Glazed over in the dining room   that was his bedroom   everyone’s shuffling, feeding on a three-foot salmon, ham, gluten-free sausages, Tesco Finest – leaden as if the platters, crystal, the bonehandled cutlery are under a shroud. My back to the corner, I stop momentarily in the area where he was lifted into a wheelchair the day the ambulancemen finally came.

Although they gorge and there is clatter, I fork a leaf; let it slip, remembering the last time I was in here holding a dropper of barium meal between thumb and forefinger, dripping him to death. I catch a flicker and a figure appears suspended, hovering; arms outstretched… the steel frame shadowing the winch which weights him motionless, three inches above the table; the table where we now eat. 



(commended in Hippocrates Poetry and Medicine Prize 2018)



05:30    moans from the dark room    what is he asking for?    

fill the space with 

terrorism / cuts in the healthcare system / soap operas / the food channel /

on & off for the next 15 hours

this is what needs to be done in order to keep him    the perfect consumer

sometimes when he breathes, his stomach burps & up spurts internal liquid

but if you are patient    eventually it will drop back down of its own accord

diapered / catheterised / hand-knitted cap half over his eyes   he drinks dry the tubes of 

QVC Shopping / America’s Dumbest Criminals / News 24 / celebrity makeovers / 

/ Monkey World /

no idea what he is asking for

a pharmaceutical delight    the white vibratos of equipment

discharging through the house    post-it notes stuck everywhere

/ bag his warm fluids / inspect his bowel movements /

rub the jade feet he doesn’t know he has    

one of them shattered by a cannula


12:30   they flutter round / administering / collecting / keeping him 

in stasis    a living treasure

unveiling the marbled housing    every fingerbreadth a marvel    

undercover   he’s sprouting his own forest    

a blush that just keeps on nourishing   a microscopata of fungus

this is a torso that needs manipulating    to get that deadweight to move an inch

colour-coded flannels torque in expert chatter  

the snooker  /  office promotion  / job losses

/ the insensitivity of latex gloves   

words gossip where accretions blossom

his skin resonates with surface flush

there is no sense of him 

but clean

staring at the TV’s multiplicated adverts  

glossing the scent of decay with products

Tommy / Beckham ?   

only for people like him



sodium valproate / clobazam / clopidogrel / levothyroxine / lansoprazole // 

crush with pestle and mortar / dilute powder with water /

/ administer by gastric gravity //

this is what his stomach sips    this medicine    

stubbornly    it won’t go down    hangs like argon / sinuous / gassy    

as the seconds push by

dull light seeps through heavy curtains   dust drifts upon the radiator’s currents

& I’m in the corner    with a corner eye’s view of a box    his bulk filling the edges

a halo suspended / neon-like / above him    

personably dispensed in his reliquary of ZAPAIN®

a synthetic infant    grotesque    all that is wrong with the world

who is he?    where’s my brother?

this national treasure    open    so glad one can keep him available

but it’s not right

the urgent wheeze of a siren negotiating a junction    as I wait in the dark room

pools of sulphur under the streetlights fizzing    in memoriam    

for these artificial dawns

he sleeps


at last 21:30 rolls around

the goal     one sterilised / candy-wrapped / pack of nutriments //

all that he asks for    the gloriousness of three courses   putty-coloured

over the next 8 hours

snaking its mechanical way through a hole in the ball of his belly    

perhaps chased by a cocktail / a coffee / a tipple of whisky?

[in reality …]

only the taste of dreams will trouble his tongue tonight    oh

but there is no point   with his 3 minute memory    for then    what is a craving   

with death just 400 beats away?

coming swiftly / inescapably / with absolute efficiency

but not for him



(a shorter version of this poem was first published in Magma #68 ‘Margins’ Issue 2017)