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Westminster Frost

Written in 1989 for Mahmuda Hasan, Cleaner, St Thomas Hospital

by Mike Douse

Three lines diverge before me: Jubilee,
The Bakerloo and DLR, and I,
I take the one most travelled by:
The difference does not signify.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out from Barisal in rain - decades ago.
I have each day looked down the saddest London lane.
I drop my foreign eyes, unable to explain.
I have stood still beside the beds of those in pain
When far away an interrupted cry
Comes over just the once but not again.
Proclaims the time was never right to die.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Some say this shift will end at five.
Some say at eight.
For what I need just to survive
I might as well be working late
And be remunerated twice.
There's little need to concentrate,
Sleepwalking keeps the soul alive,
The pay is certainly not great
But will suffice.

You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in a hospital but nothing ever happens,
No harm is done by doctors, patients must have patience.
They may as well go patiently on with their lives,
The longest lives will end in death and I shall tidy up
Their empty beds. Parcel their mean effects. Till, all too soon,
Another comes. For now my life goes on (you call this living!)

The senior nurse must think it queer
To stop beside the bio-lab and stare
Between the open-hearted mortuary.
The operating rooms and A&E,
For each dark evening of the year.
The wards are putrid, drear and deep,
I have these premises to sweep,
And empty corridors to scrub,
And hours to scour before I sleep,
And hours to scour before I sleep.

It is good to report that Mahmuda's two sons are now hard-working (especially during these Covid months) and quite well-remunerated London doctors.