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Featured poet – David Gilbert

24 February 2022

We’re delighted to feature this poem by David Gilbert. As well as being a poet, David is a leading thinker and doer in the field of patient and public engagement – co-founder of The Centre for Patient Leadership, and Director of InHealth Associates. He is a former mental health service user and has 35 years experience of working with, and for patients.

His poetry is often narrative based, sometimes with a twist of the surreal. And much of his early inspiration has been founded in his psychiatric experiences. He is Writer In Residence at The Bethlem Gallery.

Poem – Ward 9. Originally published in the magazine The Rialto.

It gets so quiet so quiet I read a lot
turn the pages slowly without rustling
soften crisps between tongue and cheek
whisper in the long white rooms
rummage through carrier bags without a scrunch
hum sonatas diminuendo

they say my heart’s percussion requires
toning down my neurones
blaze with some disremembered fire
but they can’t know the future can
always catch the past they’ll
find out too soon too soon

I hear everything they talk about
in the boiler room the radiators
their feverish swish and rush through
long pipes the valves each morning
that deadly clickety-clack. You hear
the cacophony of leaves outside? The evening
is too loud too loud the rising moon deafening

I would have been happy enough to remain
manager in a shop of silence or curator
archivist librarian gymnast mime or anything
without words – a collector of soothings
perpetual watcher of moons and satellites
but I was so young so young

when I learned to pretend to shout
tasted the shape of bugger in my mouth
kept it in began to crave the quiet
till it grew so strong it pinned me down
everything was soon too loud too loud
they keep me here for my own good
you need to go now there’s not much time
before the trolley comes round comes round

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Read more blogs from poets, including Amander Wellings and Francesca Frawley.