How are you feeling: Hospital poems (4)


If you’ve never quite understood Waiting for Godot it’s possible that a stay in hospital will provide a key. Overheard conversations, especially the ones between doctors that they don’t expect you to listen to, are quietly unnerving. Particularly on a ward at night. Which is one reason I like today’s poem so much. Another reason is that it’s a homage to Louis McNiece. Always good, but rarer than it should be.

Eclogue on ward 46   :      Ian Harker


Leeds General Infirmary.

Two junior doctors.



Ladyboys are back



That’s how you tell the time

of year here



Tennis then the Ladyboys

then German Market.

It’s like Millennium Square is a heart

and you could reach in

and hold Leeds’s heart in your hands

a pump in a tin box



Scruffy frightened bird

sand coming out the ends

of an hourglass



Think that’s what it’s like?

I saw one last year



Funny we should be on about hearts



I saw one. It was underneath

the ribs, banging away



Like a washing machine

you think it’s going to kick free



Angry little bald bloke

red like it’s holding its breath



or a face at the bars



I said it looks heavy

like a snooker ball

it looks like it should be smooth –

on baize with its own balance



I held a brain from a jar

You can smell it I said

formaldehyde the technician said

no I said

it’s someone’s life

this guy’s life getting heavier

in my hands. I could smell

all the rooms his life added up to

like morphine

a clean white smell



Morphine’s death –

you can’t feel death,

it’s cold at the edges.

Anything that’ll kill you

in cold in the end.

I think dying must be like

being sunblind,

like walking into a room

and you can’t see



This woman on Ward 4

said her mother had been to visit her

I looked at her notes and she was 84

she died in the night

half past three it’s always

half past three




Wonder where she was from.

From Jubilee

you can see the sunset over Beeston,

redbrick sunset.

I can almost feel people’s lives

sieving through my fingers



More people are born here

than die



That’s what I mean



How d’you mean?



Something about weight –

brain weight

heart weight

some fucking meme on Facebook

about the soul having a weight,

the body weighs slightly less dead

than it does alive



I need to get out of these scrubs



School uniform

Remember how it smelt

after a whole day?

Half past four

before your parents got back



Everything used to be summer

hot like the back of a car

even Christmas used to feel hot

like a pint glass that’s just been washed,

as warm and new as that



Remember old TVs?

That was weight too

eyebulge in the corner

and it took two of you



You could see yourself in it

when you switched it off

full length in this afterglow



After school



Not really

half term in the holidays

midnight and not having to get up

till midday sneaking downstairs




I used to think the Earth would glow static

if you switched out the stars

like maybe you could hold it






Hold it in your hand

and there’d be the sea rolling around

in your palm, if you lifted it

to your ear



I’ve got to get back



Remember more people

are born here than die



Massive Fuck You –

Congratulations, Mum –

it’s a Fuck You



You know – I know you’re late –

but you know we’ve colonised 80%

of the planet’s land mass

and killed 80% of the mammals



’cept chickens.

This weird bird that can’t fly

it’s almost extinct and we spread it

across the world, it’s everywhere,

most successful animal there is

more of them than there are of us



You’ll be late



See you around



See you




Under all the weight

or not under it – around it



You’re knackered mate



Tell Death Fuck You from me

if you see him



See you



see you around


Ian Harker

2005 Communication and Cultural Studies and Media alumnus of Leeds Trinity University, Ian Harker secured a two-book deal with respected poetry publisher, Templar Poetry in 2015.  Ian was chosen as one of three winners of Templar Poetry’s Pamphlet Competition and his debut collection was The End of the Sky. (Templar Poetry Dec 2015) ..His work has been published in a number of magazines and he has been shortlisted for two major competitions – the Bridport Prize and the Troubadour prize.
Since graduating, Ian has worked at Blackwells Bookshop, in Leeds.

With Andrew Lambert, in 2017 Ian has created Strix – a new magazine of poetry and short fiction.  Issue One  appeared this summer, and submissions for Issue2 were invited up to September 30th. If you didn’t know, you’ve missed it. Look out for the submission window for Issue3

His second collection Rules of Survival launches this September. Today in fact. You could be in time to be there. Chemic Tavern. Leeds This afternoon


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