A poem by Paul Bavister


Climbing the hill to work got harder. The damp
air made me cough to a stop and within hours
I was wired up in hospital. My ribs locked.

Two years later I was on the physio’s couch
attracting a crowd of students. ‘This condition
is normally seen in pregnant women.’

I felt like I was being pulled apart like a stewed
chicken. Fingers pressed deep to unstick muscle
from bone. I couldn’t stop fighting against

the push and pull. I strained and was told off
again and again to the point where I got sent
home with an exercise sheet and an order

to find the time to stretch free from the pain.
In two weeks I was back and the physio
could feel where I went wrong

where I didn’t work hard enough and suddenly
I felt where it started, about a third of the way
up my stomach, and the physio reached deep

inside and pulled out all my complacency,
resistance, self-satisfied anger, bad attitude,
snide remarks, resentment

and I felt suddenly light, broken free from
the past. She told me to put on my shirt and said
’Much better, but of course the pain will return

in an hour, there are no shortcuts here
take the pink sheet of exercises from the desk
and make sure you do them.’
Paul Bavister is a gardener, writer and teacher. He has published three poetry collections with Two Rivers Press, the most recent being The Prawn Season.