The Disrupting Effort of Cheer

by Neil Fulwood

They’ve made an effort:

cheerful décor, in-date magazines,
seating arranged asymmetrically
as if disrupting order could con us out of our fears,
as if we’d forget

this is a waiting room.
Second storey,
plate glass windows like an IMAX screen.
Are architects untroubled by vertigo?
Below, a scene without a soundtrack:

trucks and heavy plant, workmen
colour-coded into anonymity
by hi-viz tabards and hard hats,
the scarred landscape of redevelopment.

Those of us on the orthopaedic list
do our best to ignore the guy
operating the pneumatic drill. All of us
do our best to ignore the antiseptic smell

that gives the place away.
They’ve made an effort: it’s a treatment centre
not a hospital, a procedure
not an operation, a daycase unit

not a ward. But scrubs are blue
and facemasks reduce experts in their field
to pairs of eyes we hope are alert,
pairs of hands we trust will be steady.

We have attended for assessment,
we have signed consent forms,
we can stack up a library of horror fiction
and find it wanting

compared to the phrase ‘known complications’.
And what we’re unsure of
is what will be worse: the sound
of our name when they call us through

or the soft assurances of the anaesthetist.
Outside, a JCB moves forwards
and pivots (relax: count backwards from ten),
the slow arc of its bucket

describing a deep and ragged incision.


Neil Fulwood is the author of film studies book The Films of Sam Peckinpah. His poetry has been featured in Art Decades, Lunar Poetry, The Black Light Engine Room and others. He runs film revue blog The Agitation of the Mind (


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I am a dreamer, as well as a doer, who lives in the North Georgia mountains. I started my publishing journey August of 2013, have had moderate success, but my utmost passion is my "daytime" job, which is working with adults who are constantly striving to better their lives as they obtain the GED credential.

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