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The waiting room ceiling was hung with twisted

paper chains and frowning angels on gold twine.

I took the requisite number of tablets

and turned towards the beige-faced nurse

with the hush-puppy hands and hunky-dory feet:

Please may I leave now, I asked with my eyes.

She motioned me to a lime nylon cushion

on a deeply stained armchair. Her velvet

lips purred like a pony’s and she pawed my

shoulders not unkindly. Then heaved a hard

black valise onto a pile of Homes and Gardens

and sorted swiftly through a range of tinkling

silver spikes, curettes and scissors, coming

to something like a melon-baller

which she sterilised and held to the

twinkling fairy reds to check for fluff.

My old grey spirit, under the influence

of medication, folded its limbs beneath

itself, trembling. She piped some steaming

primrose liquid which smelled of cloves and

apples into a silver bowl and dunked a white

napkin right down to the bottom, wringing it,

till it was a hard baton which she used

to prod my belly where the wounds were.

Sensation vanished to the extremities and

the soft white floss of her beard tickled

my neck where she leant, as she worked

away. ‘It’s Christmas,’ she said, drawing out

a green streamer of pus, festive

as muck, from my omphalos. ‘Christmas—

and you so much of the world.’ A star

in her eye flickered and the clock ticked.

No other patients had stayed. ‘We’ll have

devils on horseback,’ she said, ‘before we

have our crackers. Hold tight.’



Geraldine Clarkson’s poems have appeared in journals, including Poetry, The Poetry Review, and anthologies including This Line is Not For Turning: An Anthology of British Prose Poetry (Cinnamon, 2011), Best British Poetry (Salt, 2014),  and The Valley Press Anthology of British Prose Poetry (2019). Her first poetry pamphlet, Declare (Shearsman, 2016), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice, and her second, Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament (smith|doorstop, 2016), was a Laureate’s Choice. Her latest publication is No. 25 (Shearsman Books, 2018), and a prose poetry pamphlet, audiobook, and full-length collection are forthcoming.


Carol Ann Duffy says: I love the colours in Geraldine Clarkson’s ‘Out-of-hours’, about someone undergoing an unpleasant medical procedure. I liked the way she contrasts the neutral colours – ‘my old grey spirit’, ‘the beige-faced nurse with the hush-puppy hands’ – with the brash colours of Christmas – ‘twinkling fairy reds’, ‘gold twine’ – and the no-nonsense way they are combined with the glittering tools and colours of the procedure itself.


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