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Saturday 9 February 2013

A Small Storm with an Aftermath

That was not thunder, sister,
but a gun,
not lightning nurse,
incendiary bombs...
See there --
a plane just crashed...

How many adults with
so much to lose
or keep intact:
authority, position, dignity --
and class, perhaps,
would throw it all away
to play with a few children,
to cringe and quiver on all fours
beneath the table, desk and beds
to play their silly games?

Ward Sister Mary would.

For it was us
who would have shrunk beneath the sheets
in abject fear had we not braved
ourselves to face the world
with our new game of make believe --

make Sister Mary, if we could, believe
the storm was nothing of the sort.
A simple air raid -- not a thing
for us to fear,
though adults would, we knew.

Too soon, alas, the matron came
spitting fire and brimstone
and ordering our playful sister
to desist. Come out at once
and tidy up your uniform!
A most disgraceful exhibition,
letting down the hospital. 
Behaviour worse than any child's! 

We heard next day she was in deep, deep trouble.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear! Yes, I guess child psychology wasn't big among the nuns in charge! What a difficult time to be a little child. Terrible to live through (a good subject matter though!) Oliver Sacks writes a bit about it in his book Uncle Tungsten, about his experiences as a child with chemistry, the development of chemistry, and then being sent off during the blitz. Just so hard to even imagine now. Good poem with the violence in the background somehow understated but definitely there. k.

Mary said...

I always enjoy your pre-war, war poems, Dave. This is no exception. I don't find Ward Sister Mary evil in any way. I think she must have been young and naive and just got into the playfulness with you all....though. of course this was termed inappropriate by those in charge!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I echo Mary's sentiment. I love the retrospective nature of many of your posts.

Brian Miller said...

nice...really cool bit of your poetic memoire sir...she sounds like quite the character and understands things the matron doesnt....

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Excellent write Dave of a kind ward sister who had the well-being of children close to her heart.

As a child I was hospitalised several times and can remember the strictness and routine of ward life then.

My lasting memories are the joy of docs signing my autograph book, a doc trying to tempt me to eat the mushrooms in a stew (hated them then-love them now), an accident with a bedpan...and my realisation that I had never believed in God.

Also learnt of racism then - but I was too young to understand it. I innocently informed a nurse of what a fellow patient had said of her - she never spoke to me again. How children have the innocent power to hurt deep.

Anna :o]

ds said...

What is it about Authority that it forgets the truth Sister Mary knew in her bones? Wonderful piece sir, thank you.

Helen said...

Sister Mary was an angel in disguise.

Cloudia said...

always the kind ones who pay the devil. and you still remember the unfairness of that, don't you?

Sending YOU Aloha
from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >

Rachna Chhabria said...

Liked this war poem. It was different.

Ygraine said...

Sister Mary was indeed an Angel!
I remember being in hospital at the age of seven, having my tonsils removed. If only a member of the nursing staff had been like her. Ours were so "regemented" and stern - made the experience much more frightening: and had that been in wartime, it would have been even more so!

Thought-provoking stuff as ever, Dave. :)

Dave King said...

Thanks everyone. As always, an amazingly supportive set of responses, for which I am most grateful.

One thing, though:- Sister Mary was Ward sister Mary, not a nun. A sister in those days was a senior nurse who was in charge of a ward, and responsible for all that went on there. I'm not sure if they still have them or not. I have heard that some hospitals have reintroduced matrons, who were responsible for the hospital as a whole - and back then kept everyone on their toes!