Bubbles in a War Zone. A poem by Helen Sheppard

It takes time to feel comfortable in a war zone –
At 8 pm your family clap, holler hope, give thanks
I take a 5 minute break, coffee(lots) and doughnuts.
My hands crack from their thousand-a-day scrubs
I cool you, drain you, cleanse you, oxygenate your
lungs, lesions from beautiful microscopic aliens
A tornado of experts keep you here, flatten this curve
I’m raw with sores behind my ears from mask elastic
cuts. Stitch groups make headbands with big buttons,
and builders send PPE, their protection in demolition.
Your ventilation soundtrack, breath shunts and beeps
I’m practiced not ‘hardy’, cry briefly as beds fall empty,
staff share an inappropriate joke and my smile is back.
In the next bed, a sister – mild asthma, a dad – angina,
a mum – diabetic, a youngster misses playing football.
I find a vial in my coat pocket given instead of confetti
at a wedding. I blow bubbles at the end of tough shifts.
We meet in this pandemic together, intimate strangers.
Tonight we stay back, share donated prosecco, order
takeaways paid for in kind, and tomorrow I will sleep.


Helen writes poems about birth and those unheard. Worked as a midwife. Started writing poetry in her forties. Co-runs Satellite of Love Spoken Word Events, enjoys the alchemy to showcase new writers. Published in: These are the Hands NHS Anthology 2020 Poems in a Lockdown 2020 Tools of the Trade – Poems for New Doctors 2019 Hippocrates Prize 2017.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *