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Chemo Nurse

How wonderful you are, bursting late
into this waiting room of politeness and fear
with its Hello/Country Life fantazines,
discreet fliers (“How to Stay Positive”),
help groups, homeopathic diets
and Chapel “just along the corridor”

without apology showing everyone
with a “TA-RA!” whisk of your ocelot
the ladder running up your inside thigh
announcing without tact or holdback
in a half Brummie half Jamaican accent
how lucky it was you wore knickers today,

taking by the hand one by one
the women in not quite convincing wigs
or bald as an egg or surreal woollen hats
towards what you call your “milking parlour”,
talking ten to the dozen so they hardly notice
being rigged up to the poison drips,

talking ten to the dozen about the daughter
you left (late again) at her first school,
managing even among the moon-faced
and eyebrowless to raise a smile,
fitting the needle so they hardly notice
how difficult it is now to find a vein.

In this palace of fake cheerfulness
with its wipe clean smiles and flower prints
and a chaplain who asks if there is anything
all morning I hear naughty laughter
billowing out from behind the screens
and think: yes, you are The Real Thing.