Repetition and repetition, plus a poem about nursing

An image of a white cat sitting in the sun, yawning.

Photo by Asique Alam on Unsplash

The cat chases its tail in a circle. 5pm press conference. Sun-warmed corner of the sofa (briefly). Siesta. Another brew. Emails. The cat chases its tail in circles.

What unprecedented repetition we’re witnessing, stuck in for the time being. New domestic routines settle like silt while old work habits rearrange themselves to accommodate the coming weeks. Check your diary, update your calendar: all holidays, gigs and parties, opportunities with handshakes, pipeline plans, facets of education and childcare, social care and self care, economies everywhere, businesses small, medium and large are on hold in the name of combatting a virus that millennials in Birkenstocks cannot outrun, regardless of how fancy their gym membership is – or was.

Heavily SEO’d vlogs, blogs and news channels have dressed the COVID experience up as the ‘new normal’, but this ‘new normal’ is the same as it ever was (
Don’t get bogged down in the rhetoric. Rise above it, sand the edges from the corners and roll with it. Perhaps prepare your answer for the March 2030 question, ‘How did you spend your lockdown?’; read a new blog you never knew existed; go plane spotting with; pick up a penguin, perfect the perfect carbonara; support your local food bank; or rewatch your new favourite series (The Tiger King?) sketching your cat chasing its tail.

* * *

A while ago, back when breakfast was before lunch and routine had an alarm clock, I used a skipful of secondary research to write a poem about nursing in the NHS. Why? Well who knows why and why would anybody know. But with everything that’s going on, maybe now is a good time to share.

‘Code 13’

Knowing walking backwards into every room would look stupid,
I open with a line to make you laugh, either a half-joke from the archives
or a nickname from the past. To welcome, defuse, and rebuild, work wires
where comfortable armatures should pose, is to care for the space
between the lines in our code.                             Lend me your wrist to rotate,
let me impress compassion upon your palm and count kindness with touch,
cater to each wound as if a kiss could save us from this hourly check up.
How’s your breath? I ask.
How did you sleep last night—no, perhaps tell me a dream instead.

I dreamt you were rewarded for your whole and undivided contribution
to professional standards, survivor of circuitous split-shift patterns.
Needling around decaffeinated for the economy, rearranging our flowering
cactus crowns, working love-pragmatic under cat cradle IV lines, telling ages
unto hours, you held honour in secret corridors among the hopeless total calenture
of loving strangers, rewriting report checks having skipped lunch for breakfast
again having rearranged appointments to then skip breakfast for lunch again.
You kept face, saved grace, in spotlit nightshift ten a.m sun break, on call—
dragged back in—knowing walking backwards into every room would look stupid,
you opened with a line to make me laugh.