The Cottage Hospital
At the end of a long-walled garden in a red provincial town,
by John Betjeman
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 drown'd
While the air is swimming with insects and children play in the street?