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Amanda Walsh, Nurse

A soft knuckled tap, tap, tap on the office door.

The sound jolts my body awake,

my sleep arrested,

worse somehow for its gentleness.

I float back to working under electric fixed lamps,

joining the other intimate shadows,

weaving in and out of the sleep of strangers.

Trusted, we never seem to alarm them,

but steer them safely through to dawn;

the tidal pull of life and death comes and goes.

Across the shiny concourse all polish and wood,

I leave, glancing across at the dome of St Paul’s,

wearily walking home down Jamaica Road.

Japanese cherry blossom floats through the filthy dirty air,

like confetti at a wedding.

I sleep uninterrupted until evening.


I wrote the poem about being a nurse on a night shift. It's been a while since I have done a night shift but it always struck me how much people would trust our presence and interventions, especially in the midst of sleep. It's also about how sometimes we are just present to act as compassionate witnesses to people as they leave (or enter) this world.

Pre Covid I was going to lapse my registration but have recently signed up to do test and trace. I am passionate about climate change and pollution especially in cities and also wanted to highlight this. "The filthy dirty air" is in Bermondsey where I used to live. Pollution levels are unacceptable and people need to start seeing it for the health hazard it is.

The BHF did a big campaign last year about particulate matter from diesel and increased CVD risk and we all need to be more proactive about this. Covid 19 has just intensified the facts everyone has known for at least the last 20 years about health inequalities.

I hope we don't miss the opportunity that was given during lockdown to really make an impact on climate change but don't see any real leadership in this area in our current system as "No going back" becomes business as usual. I love Corbyn and hate the Tories. I have always loved poetry and I particularly like Kate Tempest and George the Poet.

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