Given the large number of poetry anthologies out there, I would not be surprised if someone has compiled a collection of poems about hospitals. If so, I have not seen it. (Nor have I looked for it.) Thus, I apologize if some enterprising anthologist has trod this ground before me. That being said, I have not made a conscious effort to search out hospital poems. Rather, I have simply come across them in my aimless reading.
Is there a common theme to what I have stumbled upon? Well, as you might expect, death haunts these hospital corridors. But, as Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849) wrote: "Think upon Death, 'tis good to think of Death." Now that I have no doubt chased everyone away, here is a poem by John Betjeman:
The Cottage Hospital
At the end of a long-walled garden
in a red provincial town,
A brick path led to a mulberry --
scanty grass at its feet.
I lay under blackening branches
where the mulberry leaves hung down
Sheltering ruby fruit globes
from a Sunday-tea-time heat.
Apple and plum espaliers
basked upon bricks of brown;
The air was swimming with insects,
and children played in the street.
Out of this bright intentness
into the mulberry shade
Musca domestica (housefly)
swung from the August light
Slap into slithery rigging
by the waiting spider made
Which spun the lithe elastic
till the fly was shrouded tight.
Down came the hairy talons
and horrible poison blade
And none of the garden noticed
that fizzing, hopeless fight.
Say in what Cottage Hospital
whose pale green walls resound
With the tap upon polished parquet
of inflexible nurses' feet
Shall I myself be lying
when they range the screens around?
And say shall I groan in dying,
as I twist the sweaty sheet?
Or gasp for breath uncrying,
as I feel my senses drowned
While the air is swimming with insects
and children play in the street?