Let the nurses laugh

Let the nurses laugh
it feels as if laughter has left us

I watch your careful hands
make a cardboard house for our cat

touching the tape; I know your hands have washed corpses
spoken to their spirits as calmly as you speak to me now

your youth engulfed in tears with death
the lesson of your first day’s training

—three years before the pandemic—
with rising alarm, we study anew

the ‘stay strong’ twitter-footage
window-call between neighbours in Wuhan.



Helen Pletts (www.helenpletts.com) (Instagram @helen.pletts) Working collaboratively as Word & Image by Pletts & Berger with illustrator Romit Berger, since 2011 (published exclusively online by www.inksweatandtears.co.uk). Helen’s poetry was consecutively shortlisted for Bridport Poetry Prize 2018 and 2019, longlisted for The Rialto Nature and Place Competition 2018, longlisted for the Ginkgo Prize 2019. ‘The plane tree entertains the circus of doves’ won the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month in March 2019.

Romit Berger:  “I am a graphic designer. I met my very dear friend, Helen Pletts, in Prague, several years ago. Helen’s inspiration has led my graphic design career into that magical realm which combines illustration and poetry, and our creative wings continue to connect our souls through time and distance.”

The poem ‘Let the nurses laugh’ was originally part of Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s ‘Beyond the Mask’ celebration of nurses and midwives working in the pandemic.