The old stone streets of Durham are losing their cobbles like sore teeth.
On they drill, those big shouldered county council blokes
in pit hats and yellow jackets, ear-splitting stone-splitters cordoned off
to prise up time’s suppurating slag and lay down new time in new rocks.
But time is space, and the paving they pound in is never so heavy
as the air they work in. It’s not even air that’s wrinkling them into
grey twists of men smoking outside the hospital doors after coronary
scares, or bodies wheeled through fluorescent corridors, gazing at you
in astonishment, grateful for the latest in hip replacements.
Tick tock go the secretaries’ heels, statistics in command
checking out the wards. Nurses glide by, their professional competence
neutered by their brogues and starchy caps, raised drips in hand.
Everyone is being taken care of, don’t worry, you will be all right,
say the men in green fatigues, removing their gloves and mouth masks.
Screens are still talking brightly when the theatres close for the night,
but it’s hard to believe you’re the blokes you thought you were, and no one asks.