‘Finally, of course, you might die.’
So said the suave young doctor, making light
Of risk. Earlier he had flourished
A make-believe pelvis, a tennis-ball sized,
Plastic-coated metal hip joint
Nestling within, like some junk from
An ancient motor car. It looked
At some remove from the poetry
Of human movement.
You liked his charm, the fresh face and that
Springbok accent explaining the ski-clothes
Hanging from a peg: no early morning snow
Was going to keep him from a day
Of cutting bone, rearranging legs
And reassuring the lame.
Weeks later, a blowsy nurse
With pinned-up hair and
A dodgy knee recently fortified
By some surgeon-saviour, admired
The precision of your wound,
A neat arcing track across
The soft curve of your pale skin.
‘Would you like to see?’ she said,
As if I might be a connoisseur
Of surgery, or post-op stitching.
There was a moment when I thought
You gone, that combination of grey pallor,
The frisson of tension on the ward,
And the trailing line pumping you full of fluid,
Unlocking what had been unspoken.
Now though, you sit and lie
In high-backed chair or separate bed,
Wishing that time could be cut and
Stitched, and life resumed, your
Plastic hip sleekly oiled, and
That one-time stately gait restored.
Richard Knott has written several books of modern history, notably The Sketchbook War and, most recently, Posted in Wartime. A book on artists and writers in the period 1936-1956 is set to be published in 2020. He is also working on his first collection of poetry. He lives in Somerset.