Poetry: Hip Replacement

‘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.