Three Poems by Francis Annett

Good morning on this sunny Bank Holiday Monday! I hope everyone is having a beautiful weekend. I’m delighted to tell you that today’s blog features not one, but three poems from our regular group member, Francis Arnett. Francis started work as a teacher in secondary education and retired after 40 years, with many happy memories and the good luck to receive an MBE as well. Brought up in London, he’s lived on Teesside for the last third of a century and is beginning to feel at home. His poems take us on a journey from his childhood to more recent struggles with cancer. All of them taken together provide us with a little glimpse into how procedures around health have changed – DDT anyone?

1947 Tonsillitis

I lay on the bed waiting my turn

pyjama trousers pulled down


I counted twelve more of us

in the ward, all lying to attention.

Starch and black shoes

marched up with her steel pan

holding the weapon.

Smoothly the needle

entered my thigh.

But the boy in the bed next to me

took one look

and yelled and yelled

as he ran out of the ward.

I watched the nurse chase him

then looked at my leg.

The needle had lost its moorings

Was swaying there slightly

Like the mast of an abandoned boat.

I was beginning to feel drowsy

but the nurse woke me up.

‘You stupid boy, why didn’t you pull it out?’

I didn’t know.

Perhaps it was meant to be like that.

The bed next to me still empty

as I fell asleep.


First Flight – Aged Eight

Never been in a plane before,

Never watched the stars at night,

Never been so excited,

Never so tired.

All at once.


So noisy and so shaking

Such a thump when we landed.

So hot and very bright,

Into the sun of Cyprus.


They said, ‘Hello and welcome’,

Then sprayed us all – what a smell.

My mother said,

‘It’s DDT. It’s good for us.’


In the airport there was a man.

He looked old and I was small.

My mother ran to him and

They held on to each other tight.

I stood watching,

Silent before my father.


August 2015 Lymphoma – My Family, My Blood

An alien lurks in my neck,

swells under my chin, ready to burst forth,

inflating my arm down to the finger-tips.

He’s cunning.

He deploys his army of cells,

with insider knowledge

speeding the invasion,

a blitzkrieg whose lightning blasts my body.


One cell killing another,

Cain destroying Abel.

If his cells are my cells,

if my bone marrow and my blood

give him life,

then he’s me.



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