This is mask territory, take care.
Finding myself on the other side now
I lift one from the box and wear it,
my patient face muffled in stuffy fabric.
Your full name and date of birth, please
is confirmed with several heads
seated behind plastic screens
at a succession of counters,
then I take the clipboard of questions
that want numbers rather than stories
– tick the boxes, vote for yes or no –
to wait among the subdued and patient.
The ticky-click of crutches passes,
then a lumbering moonboot,
an old hunch pushing a frame
but for most, the need is less scrutable
as we’re channelled along an assembly line –
through the cold efficiency of x-ray
next a focused surgeon’s assessment
blood tests with a tech from Macedonia
and a shy student nurse taking measurements
then upstairs to strip for an ECG
where an angel hovers over my pale
chest with her little sticky post-it tabs.
Fully processed, I emerge from the overheated
clinic to reward myself with coffee,
having secured a spot on a waiting list
in an ever hopeful elastic queue.