This Cloistered Time
(Remembering Selly Oak Hospital Birmingham, NHS & Military – 2007)
I’ve been remembering the time my youngest son lay there in A&E
with flattened face, the blood, just trickling from one ear.
I’m sorry, Mom, he’d said.
That cardboard bowl I took from off the nurse, that careful nurse.
Looking back, she understood the simmering, the nerves,
at worst, that point when love became an unexploded thing,
a submachine gun on repeat, a thing, that thinks of lighting fires
and starting fights out in the street.
That careful nurse, she too could see the child upon the sheet,
my bearded child, the one that smoked and suckled bottled beer.
He’s come off lucky, Mom, she’d said, he must have had an angel with him there.
I remembered I was more in need of care, than him with fractured bones,
a flattened face, a wounded jaw. The impact dislodged teeth and so much more.
He was at home for ages on repair and all his brothers, sisters,
they controlled him with their healing, altruistic care.
And now, he’s safe with me again. His job, that takes him all around the world on viral hold.
My wiser, bearded, youngest son… a friendly man, a gastronome,
a carnival that’s now without the streets and I have got to spend this cloistered time
with all his fun, his acquiescence to that wordless voice. All that he knows of life, of death.
I remember when he waited for his surgery, his patience, fearless acceptance
as they kept on flying in from Basra, wounded soldiers on the helipad.
An army major fixed his jaw, a metal plate and wired teeth.
I fed him curry, through a straw.
Lois Hambleton is from Solihull in the West Midlands. Focussing on inclusion and supported learning, she taught for many years at a Birmingham College, eventually managing the inner city provision for learners recovering from mental ill health.