How are you feeling? Poems about hospitals (3)

hospital 5

When it comes to young children and A&E, I guess I’ve been sort-of lucky. Four sons more or less guarantee hospital visits, but when mine were young it was usually more chaotic than traumatic. Like the time my eldest son at the age of about two or three ran into  glass partition door headfirst. He had a brown paper bag over his head at the time. Which caused the problem and saved him from serious slicing. Nonethless, we drove, he and I, to Middlesbrough General. Friday night in A&E. Always interesting. At some point, small son vanished, but later reappeared, hurtling round a corner pushing a rattling dressings trolley and pursued by an irate Irish nurse. So I guess I’ve been lucky…never been in the place that Charlotte Ansell’s poem takes me to. But I know that all of us with children know that tumultuous panic. We know what we are supposed to be able to do as parents, and know that we can’t. Which is why we love the NHS.


Wound: Charlotte Ansell

You will remember this night in pieces

like the glass as it shattered,

the moment when her chatter was drowned out

by a thud, the splattering of tight sharp shards,

that endless pause before she howled,

how we all just feet away tried to run

and you scooped her out of her auntie’s arms,

seeing the too bright too large drops of blood,

not knowing where they stemmed from,

looking first at her knees,

prising at her fingers as she still screamed

and her dad pulled back her sleeve,

dropping it immediately

“Jesus- call an ambulance!”

panic sounding like anger.

You looked again at the wide wound

that etched a tattoo on your brain,

replayed in flashbacks through the night,

all of the next day,

how you held her wrist so tight,

her arm above her head

to slow the sickening tide of red

as your other daughter backed away sobbing,

you held out your spare arm to her

but she wouldn’t come,

she wouldn’t come.

You will hear like a jerky soundtrack,

the staccato words as her uncle dialled 999,

as you held her close, close,

kissed her face, wrapped strips of wipes

around her tiny wrist,

tried to keep the flaps of skin together.

You will remember your own arm dead

from holding hers aloft,

that nothing would possess you to let if fall,

from within a towel

the hugeness of her wide blue eyes,

her silence that she’d never had before

no words, not even a nod of response

just huddled in, in shock.


At the hospital

the blinding of the lights,

the kindness of the nurse,

the picture on the wall that caught your eye,

though you wished it hadn’t;

of a smiling boy in a photo

with two dates underneath not one-

23.02.03- 07.04.05.

As appalled you turned away

from what could so nearly

have been your child,



(Publ. Mslexia 2014)


Charlotte Ansell has published three poetry collections. Other publications include work in Poetry Review, Mslexia, Now Then and Butcher’s Dog and anthologies including The Very Best of 52 anthology (Nine Arches Press, 2015) and WordLife (Wordlife, 2016). She was the winner of the Red Shed Open Poetry Competition, one of 6 finalists in the Fun Palaces Write Science competition in 2015 and winner of the Watermarks Poetry Competition 2016.Charlotte Ansell is a poet and part-time freelance creative writing tutor.

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