The Hospital by Ben Barton – Cultured Llama Press


The Hospital
Ben Barton
Cultured Llama Press

In The Hospital, Ben Barton offers slow observations of hospital life. A dead man’s phone rings; a slug encroaches through a gap in the window; a glimpse of the outside world is viewed through an X-ray held up to the light. In amongst the daily humiliations and the public spectacle of the sick and the dying, there are sparks of hope: a nip of whisky from another patient’s hip flask, the cries of a newborn from down the corridor, and one last meal, jab, swab before leaving.

Gas panic

I wake up, chilled
Sheets stuck to me like
wet tissue.

Between my ears
the screams of dead children
whistle through the night
Playground chants
still come from their dry, paper mouths
Gnarled faces knotted in pain
the lips desiccated.

Ready for the freezer
where the grey ice
packs up their nostrils
little crystals
the fissures
of their soft,
licit brains.

Here we lie

The unusual suspects,
we line the walls in fives
Some crammed in at twelve to a block,
it is suffocating
No privacy to wipe your arse
This is a public sport, recovery
a Roman game
We’re being put to the test, challenged
to continue,
dared to get better, to rise up
And only some of us will make it.


Dip your oars softly
into still waters
Row across to the island
No bridges will bring you here.

You’d best cram in the boats
plug up the holes
And set sail for our colony.

Timed with the tides
We’ll let you in twice daily
No more, or less
As the sea parts back
an open mouth.

Be the missionary,
bring grapes to the sick
and coins for Charon,
just in case.

We might not smile,
it’s true
But we’re still here
at visiting hours
For your entertainment.


stuffed animals
hide an evil smirk in the dark.


benBen Barton grew up on the Romney Marsh in Kent. His poems have been published in Chroma, The Coffee House, Iota, The Journal, Neon Highway, Pulsar, Snakeskin, South, Time Haiku and Zygote in My Coffee, among others. Nominated for the Canterbury Poet of the Year Award and the erbacce-prize, he works as a professional copy and travel writer.

Also a film artist, Ben’s film Stella Erratica was funded by the late David Bowie, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. He lives in Folkestone with his husband and son, beside the beautiful North Downs.

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