February has been a difficult month, dominated by family illness, and I have seen more of the insides of hospital wards and gp surgeries than my own home. Neither reading or writing has featured much in my life, and I have little to report in terms of anything positive or poetic. I don't believe in hackneyed ideas of hope being found in bleak circumstances, nor do I have faith in my own ability to process much in the way of the written word at present. But as I have been wandering the corridors and staircases of the increasingly enormous, and thus increasingly impersonal, St James Hospital, Leeds, I have been briefly heartened by some of the paintings, photographs and poems exhibited on the walls. When I worked at the now demolished Roundhay Wing psychiatric unit on the premises in the early 2000's, I remember exhibiting some of my own poems on our corridors, and I do feel that poetry in such circumstances, if offered non-intrusively, can help to lift the spirits of patients, visitors, or staff. It reminds us we are human, a person rather than an NHS number, gives us pause for thought, and can have the unexpected effect of removing us for a moment from the reasons of our presence on the ward or waiting room. That's why I am grateful to such poets as Mandy Sutter, whose poem At Least caught my eye as I ascended the stairs in Chancellors Wing, en-route to another visit, another uncertainty, and made me smile for a moment:
AT LEAST, by Mandy Sutter
At least, he said, you’ll get a poem
out of this and I thought
yeah, a short one.