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Waiting to be called, a nervous, pained stillness.

Cases, plastic carriers, beach bags, litter the floor.

An old man drifting in and out of sleep, a girl gulping tepid coffee.

Awkward attempts at conversation, slip quickly into silence.

I limp into this group, united only by fearful anticipation.

Nothing, only the ticking of the slow, leaden minutes.

My name is called. I don’t hear it at first

in the bleak anonymity of this collective waiting.


Can’t recognise the surgeon masked

and scrubbed up for the next sacrifice.

I hope he may be smiling beneath his armour?

I’d pray anxiously for a general anaesthetic,

Hoping to sink into woolly oblivion,

An hour or so to practise dying. 

But no! only a jab in the back, an epidural,

offers a suspension between life and death.

Desperately I nod as a masked man promises, “No pain!”

Confusing, I’ve lost my legs.

Now I’m an ancient, marble torso in the British Museum.

I lie on one side of the Styx, awaiting a masked Charon

to row me across.

Suddenly, I’m in a blacksmith’s workshop,

Hammering, tapping, metallic echoes,

Workmen banging out iron on an anvil.

Sounds of sawing, metal against bone.

Does my arthritic knee demand such violence?

I feel slightly sick, hearing my bones dismantled;

we begin life with creation and end in demolition! 

I grieve for my knee, so faithful when riding horses, bicycles, running,

walking through bluebell woods, trudging through snow.

Going down escalators, up in elevators!


In Recovery now – well, just the remaining parts of me,

more metal, a little less bone.

Another step down the path of degeneration.

SARAH DAS GUPTA is a patient aged 80 with the experience of knee surgery.

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