Bubbles in a War Zone by Helen Sheppard

in Poetry/Spotlight

Bubbles in a War Zone...

It takes time to feel comfortable in a war zone.

At 8pm your family clap, holler hope, give thanks.

A five-minute break, slurp of coffee, half a doughnut.

My hands crack from their thousand-a-day scrubs.

I cool you, drain you, cleanse you, oxygenate lungs

with their 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 tube 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. Tomorrow I will sleep.



Published in; Poems from the Lockdown, These are the Hands NHS  Literati Magazine, BBCUpload (2020) Hippocrates Prize 2017


Bio: 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 and giving new poets a platform.