Standstill (Friern Barnet 1969)

The frosts get sharp, the regulars appear –
clever dossers come in from the cold,
sectioned for a bed and three square meals,
a glass of beer on Christmas Day – not bad.

I’ve seen the other wards by now
and romantic thoughts of madness are dispelled:
there’s no-one to release,
even those who should be – nowhere else to go.

Alcoholics, depressives, those who just can’t cope –
“Which nerve broke down?” the nurses smugly ask –
straightjackets come in pills and draughts,
while lobotomies are rare since ECT.

I’ve carried Xmas cards around two weeks,
too low to send my greetings anywhere,
I skive off with a phone call Boxing Day,
to say my wife is sick.

The new Chief Nursing Officer is unimpressed –
he’s gay and I’m supposed to be unmarried …
“legally” I say and disregard his threats,
I’m leaving in a fortnight anyway.

I’m his predecessor’s parting gift –
so nice to be a pawn in someone else’s game –
but all this will be over soon
and I’ll return to my normality.