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Night Visiting
  1. Dr Jennifer Strawson
  1. Correspondence to
    Dr Jennifer Strawson, ST5 London Deanery, Palliative Medicine, London, UK; jennystrawson{at}

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A wallowy wet night

they called me in.

‘They want a doctor, only a doctor will do.'

I take the back steps into the hospice,

tiptoe past the dark.

‘The family are waiting.'

I follow the nurse's translucent finger

pointing the way.

‘I must see the patient first.'

My voice tired, harsher than I'd hoped.

Supine, slither of moon caught in the net curtain

illuminates the beauty of skin.

A morbid game,

we count to ten between breaths.

Slipping from the room,

through treacle I walk

to the designated family room.

Séance like under the sickly glow

of an energy saving light bulb,

a chair awaits my all-knowing bottom.

‘As a family we have decided - antibiotics, a blood transfusion,

there must be something you can do Doctor?'

But what can I do?

Explain the biology of death,

the magician's hat run out of rabbits?

‘Where we are from, our country, we never give up,

we pray always for a miracle.'

Hope hangs in the air,

fragile golden thread.

I cannot compete with miracles.

‘I'm sorry.'

I watch them leave, heads bowed,

pad back to her room.

Standing, I examine the filament of the light bulb,

imagine the deep sulci of the brain.

I make to leave,

but on the last step,

something stops me -


from her room,

sweet gospel, all the way home.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.