The Front Line

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The Front Line

Big issues hit home when personified by small gestures. I’m thinking here of the people who clap the NHS, bang pots, shed tears, smile for the front line. And now we’re more aware of the other unseen, the second line: pharmacists, posties, delivery people, police, those behind the counter. Put a name on any of them and it’s personal.

Every morning I run to Chiseldon to pick up newspapers for the nervous elders in my village. It’s important to the old folk. Their anxiety is in their fingers behind squinting curtains, their shadows in the evening disinfecting the front door handle and the letter box. Dawn and her wonderful team in the Spar Shop in Chiseldon are my front line every morning and I and the old folk are so, so grateful to them.

I’ve a special pal, Rowan, who’s a NHS doctor in London. London, think of it. A soup of contagion on the underground, on staircases, the buttons of every lift, doors to be opened and closed. I salute her bravery working as if it’s a normal shift in such danger.

Here are stanzas from Michael Rosen’s NHS poem, “These are the Hands” which celebrates my friend’s commitment to her patients, and the commitment of everyone who is exposed on the front line.

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.

There’s no live poetry in Swindon during the Cov-19 lockdown but there’s plenty on the internet. Think of poems as “hot soup for the isolated.” Stay safe.

First published in Swindon Link