Bubbles in a War Zone


S T O R I E S  I N   T H E   T I M E   O F   A   P A N D E M I C



H E L E N   S H E P P A R D



It takes time to feel comfortable in a war zone.
At 8pm your family clap, holler hope, give thanks.
take five-minutes, slurp of coffee, half a doughnut.
My hands crack from their thousand-a-day scrubs.
I cool you, drain you, cleanse you, oxygenate lungs
with their lesions from beautiful microscopic aliens.
A tornado of experts keep you here flatten this curve.
I’m raw with sores behind my ears from mask elastic
cuts. Stitch groups make headbands with big buttons,
and builders send PPE, their protection in demolition.
Your ventilation soundtrack: breath shunts and beeps.
I’m ‘practiced’ not ‘hardy’, cry briefly as beds fall empty,
staff share an inappropriate joke and my smile is back.
In the next bed, a sister (mild asthma), a dad (angina),
a mum (diabetic), a youngster misses playing football.
I find a tube in my coat pocket, given instead of confetti
at a wedding. I blow bubbles at the end of tough shifts.
We meet in this pandemic together, intimate strangers.
Tonight we stay back, share donated Prosecco, order
takeaways paid for in kind. Tomorrow I will sleep.






Published – COVID-19 Poems in the Lockdown, Willowdown Books 2020. Reprinted with permission.


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