The patient versus the disease and The Duel. Two poems by Susan Coyle

The patient versus the disease

Patient knows her opponent intimately
Disease has moved with stealth,
planting seeds, its tendrils, twisting,

turning, entwining her heart.
Disease’s clandestine moves,
hidden in the shadows
Patient’s intuition as she felt Disease’s presence,
Patient’s breath shortens and becomes laboured

Disease’s location eventually confirmed
by tests, imaging and the puzzle solving physician

Hospital appointments
conveyor belt
next please
Patient greeted by empathetic faces,
Constantly questioned “ name date of birth and address?”
Is this a test to make sure patient is lucid?

In frustration Patient asks
“why would I say I am someone else?”
hospital gowns are not flattering
designer gowns they’re not
instructions repeated matter of fact

breath in, hold your breath,
breath out, next

Patient wonders why they can’t they see her anymore,
they only see you, Disease.
Disease straightens her crown and smiles.

Our battle rages on.
Treatments, drugs, surgery
Disease retreats to remission,
Patient wins this skirmish

Disease not to be beaten,
planned a counterattack
a devious mutating enemy
Patient’s initial battleplan fails after the second assault

A battle of wits as patient rallies
Disease refuses to retreat this time
pushes forward,
Over running boundaries and invading everywhere
Patient refuses to wave the white flag

Disease refuses to give in and delivers the final coup de grace,
Patient accepts armistice day arrives
A calm air of tranquillity
Disease and her sidekick, Grim Reaper,
Stand victorious.


The Duel

They spent my life plotting against me.
Even when they didn’t know my name,
They schemed, curse, planned.

My destruction, annihilation, their ambition.
Over time, we became well acquainted.
Begrudgingly respecting, mortal enemies.

They decline to let me be, exist.
I refuse to leave gently.
No respect for my kith or kin, our name cursed.

Fear amplified their reaction to my presence
Rosary beads rattle and plea deals begin
Pray to your God of choice.

Now isolated, surrounded by the white coats,
A laboratory, my new home
Dissected, tested, genetics sequences mapped.

Therapy their torture weapon of choice.

Our deadly dance continues.
I retreat, they claim victory,
No quarter asked, no quarter given.

In disbelief, they watch my chameleon moves.
Acknowledging beauty of my ability to shapeshift.
Daylight shimmers, our last duel at dawn
Irony of it all,
when I win, we both lose.


Based in Galway. Started writing in 2019. Longlisted Over the edge 2019, published North West Words 2019.

1 Comment

  1. Straight forward poetry that can be read fast and delivers its power with a punch, no intellectualism, I love it!

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