Sunday, 26 June 2011

Medical poetry

In 2010, I needed surgery for bowel cancer. Fortunately, the surgery appears to have been successful, and with no adverse consequences apart from some occasional uncomfortable effects on my internal plumbing works, on which I choose not to elaborate. I found that writing poetry helped me to cope with the challenge of my medical treatment. Not all of it is appropriate for those of a squeamish disposition, but here are a few which avoid detailed examination of my plumbing problems.  Despite various whinges one hears about the NHS, I can only say that with a few minor exceptions, all the treatment I received at the hands of the NHS was excellent, and it was a truly humbling experience to encounter so many wonderful health workers, some of whom earn a very modest living for doing a superb job in a dedicated fashion.

  Fizzy Drinks
When a nurse brings you a fizzy drink
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Despite what you may initially think
It's sure as hell not lemonade.
It could be Kleen-Prep; God help you
Which tastes both fizzy and foul.
It makes you burp on its way down
And does nasty things to your bowel.
If it's not Kleen Prep, it could be Potassium
Which looks like Alka-Seltser.
Hold your nose and drink it slow
Or you'll bee the world's best belcher.
I must go now, and disappear
And look as if I'm busy.
'Cos here comes the nurse with a glass, I fear,
And it looks as though it's fizzy.

St. Patrick’s Day
It’s a grand day at St. Mary’s, St Patrick’s Day is here
So take us off the saline and put us on the beer.
Seventeenth of March is a day which should be lively,
So get hold of some Guinness
And let’s have it on the I/V.
The Irish patients and the nurse, Carleen the Dublin dolly,
Will have a Paddy’s Day parade.
Our float will be a trolley.
We’ll whiz around the corridors.
There’ll be no end of fun.
And then, to have some extra craic
We’re off to Cheltenham.

St Mary’s Finest
The famous Florence Nightingale was Lady with the Lamp.
She nursed the British soldiers in their foul Crimean camp.
Now one-five-five years later, and I’ve had my reversal,
But for the grief it caused my bottom I had no rehearsal.
One Friday night the pain was bad. For respite I was yearning.
A great nurse gave me Sudocrem, which stopped my bum from burning.
So thank you, Tracey Myers. You really are a star,
And you’ll  go down in history as the Lady with the Jar.

Catheter Tube     (“to the tune of “Blue Suede shoes”)

Well I’m feeling unsteady
But here’s the physio.
He says to get ready
So go, man, go.
But don’t you
Step on my catheter tube.
 Well you can do anything
But stay off my catheter tube.

Well you can march me around
With an oxygen mask
And within reason
I’ll do what you ask.
You can make me walk all the way to the loo
But stand on that tube and I’ll swing for you
And don’t you
Step on my catheter tube.
 Well you can do anything
But stay off my catheter tube.

Well you can trash my bed
Make me hike for hours
Drink my squash
And steal my flowers
You can make me walk ‘cos that’s your job
But I’m gonna squawk if you hurt my knob
So don’t you
Step on my catheter tube.
 Well you can do anything
But stay off my catheter tube.

G-I  Joes

There’s a  ward at St Mary’s, I’m pleased to report
Where the standard of care is phenomenal
For Gastro-intestinal  (called “G-I” for short)
And all other ailments abdominal.

Each G-I Patient is given a bed
Though he’s  not  fought for U.S of A.
Where he’s cared for and watered (but may not be fed)
While his State is improved by his stay.

The doctors and nurses and their back-up team
Come from several different nations.
With care and devotion they keep the place clean
And deliver superb ministrations.

So if you’ve the misfortune to be struck down low
By an ailment for which you didn’t plan. It
Will help you if you are a new G-I Joe
In the ward which is known as Charles Pannett. 

Back catalogue - Shelach Lecha

I will periodically "backfill" the weekly parasha poems.

Here is the poem for Shelach Lecha - the week before the Blog was created.  This week's theme is the twelve spies which Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan.

Shelach Lecha
I spy, with my little eye,  a land full of people all twenty feet high.
If we attack them we’ll surely all die. We’re too weak and puny. Let’s not even try.

“He’s wrong” shouted Caleb, through booing and jeers. “The Lord God is with us. Forget all your fears.”
The people said “no” and it came to God’s ears.  He said “Stay here and rot for the next forty years. 

Today you shed tears and for no valid reason.  For all years to come this will be a sad season.
You fail to acknowledge the good things you have.”  And that’s why we still cry on Tisha b’Av.

Shir Hashavua - Chukkat

This week's Parasha is called Chukkat. The opening part refers to a mystifying law relating to a red heifer. The Jewish people are instructed to find an unblemished red heifer, burn it and use the ashes to purify sinners.

Chukkat, Chukkat, is doing in my head.
Where can I find a heifer that’s red
And without any blemish? Then burn it with wood.
They tell me its ashes will do me some good.
The ashes are holy and work like a cure
But the folks who prepare them are rendered impure.
I can’t understand it – and I’ve got a degree.
If cows think about it they get BSE.
Most attempts to explain it just end up in failure
But I know that these ashes can’t be lost to Australia.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Shir Hashavua - Korach

"Shir Hashavua" means "song of the week".  The Five Books of Moses; the first 5 books of the Old Testament, are split into 54 Parashiot ("sections" in Hebrew). In the Jewish religion, we read a different successive Parasha in synagogue every week. I am gradually trying to compose a poem or parody about each Parasha.

This week's parasha is Korach (Book of Numbers; Chapters 16-18 inclusive) . The central theme is a challenge to Moses' authority by his cousin Korach and his followers. We are told that Korach and his followers were swallowed by the earth as proof of God's appointment of Moses as the leader of the Children of Israel. The text lists some of Korach's followers by name, and one of these is On, son of Peleth, His name is mentioned as one of the initial rebels, but when Korach assembles his followers later in the story to challenge Moses, On's name is omitted.

Various commentators refer to this omission, and several Midrashic (=extrapolated stories) explanations indicate that On's wife managed, by various means, to prevent his continued participation in the rebellion. Her behaviour is contrasted with Korach's wife, who encouraged her husband in his challenge to Moses. We are not told the name of On's wife, but this poem is about her.

On, son of Peleth, was a pious Jew.
On, son of Peleth, rebelled without a clue.
Threw in his lot with Korach. How far would he go?
Not that far, hints the Torah, because his wife said No.
Moses or Korach, who would be his boss?
The answer is Mrs On, and she don't give a toss.
So hearken to me, rebels, before ye stir up strife.
Remember On Ben-Peleth, and listen to your wife.

Friday, 17 June 2011


My son Nathan received his exam results yesterday, and earned a 2:2 grade in his Zoology finals at Nottingham University.

This is a tribute to him.


My son has got his first degree, a 2:2 in Zoology
He says he'll do a PHD, but is that just codology?
He won't say what he wants to be
Though we're giving him the third degree.

The Generals


My main hobby is miniature wargaming. I attend the Central London Wargames Club which meets in a pub in central London every Monday night (and now also on Thursdays. However,I am only allowed out once a week to play toy soldiers).


Here is a poem, inspired by Seigfried Sassoon’s poem “The General” , which I composed today.


The Generals

“Good evening there, Andy” the General said

When I met him last night on our way to the pub,

And we carried in holdalls our legions of lead

As we both made our way to the wargaming club

Where we led our lead armies to glory or death

On a 6 x 4 table of green mdf

Against generals called Simon or Alan or Geoff.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The first Poem

Ruth was born a Moabitess
But her status these days is a mess
And the US* Beth Din
Might not let David in
If he wished to attend JFS.

* United Synagogue, not United States

Most of my poetry is what I call “experiential”; i.e it is inspired by events I have witnessed or experienced. One of the regular themes of my poetry is varying aspects of the Jewish religion and scriptures.
Last week was the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) when we read the Book of Ruth.
This is a poem which came to me in Synagogue last week, which of course I could not write down until after the festival ended. It it dedicated to my wife, partly because she shares the name of the heroine of the poem. It is essentially a politically-incorrect comment on a vexed topic in Anglo-Jewry.

First scribblings

Thank you for reading my blog. It will be the home for my poems. As I compose new ones, I will post them here.

Please feel free to comment on them, and if you like them, please tell your friends and family.