Siren Call

On the way to the hospital, I put on my headphones
and listen to some West Coast jazz.

A lady wearing a surgical mask is waiting at the bus stop.
A young girl stands beside her. She is wearing cheap skull earrings.
I think of septicaemia.

I walk over the railway bridge and past the rusty boat.
There are layered clouds in the sky.

I pass the charity shop and a pile of empty beer cans.

A siren reverberates in the summer air.
Vehicles scatter as an ambulance tears down the road.
I hear – “where have you been?”

I continue on.

The sun beats down onto the hot tarmac.
My forehead starts to feel sore.
I think of melanoma.

An orange motorcycle glides by.

A discarded mask – pandemic detritus,
lies beside an empty cigarette packet.
I think of emphysema.

The roadside blackberry bush is tainted by car fumes.

I smile at an elderly lady and she smiles back.
I notice she is limping.
I can’t help but think of fractured femurs.

Smiles cost nothing.

On the path is an empty Malteser packet.
Sold as guilt-free light bites.
I can only think of obesity and heart disease.

I walk past the social club that doubles as a brothel.

Someone has etched “SG” into some cement that has dried.
They are now immortal.
I think of death.

Another ambulance goes by in a cacophony of mercy.
Its blue lights flash off the shop fronts.
I hear – “why weren’t you here hours ago.”

I pass a lonely sachet of sugar
and a carton from the fast-food outlet.
I think of diabetes.

I cross the road.

A man on a mobility scooter he can’t decide whether to let me pass.
I make the decision for him wave him by.
I think of muscular dystrophy.

I walk through the gates.

I arrive at work and silence my music.
I put on my overalls.
I get into my ambulance.

Henry is a poet, writer and mental health essayist based in Somerset in the UK. His work has appeared previously in Dissident Voice. Read other articles by Henry.