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‘Hospital Visitors’

A sharp gust of river air
makes me look up,
sensing some commotion
at the distant end of the corridor.

Wild and heedless,
pressing towards me
full of fathomless intent,
striped by the light

from high-vaulted windows,
knocking soft cartilage
against the walls,
three mud-flecked swans

smelling of tundra
dip and lift their fearsome,
faintly creaking wings
close enough to lift my hair.

Orderlies trundling oxygen
fade to ghosts. The sick
and the depleted all vanish.
Our whole heartsore pageant

is suddenly a silent cloister.
The swans rise into the stairwell.
I cannot see the open skylight,
but for a moment feel its draft.



Peter Wise grew up near London and now lives in Lisbon, where he works as a freelance journalist and translator.

“This poem came out of an assignment for a Poetry School course with Eleanor Rees – The Magic and Metamorphosis of Metaphor. I submitted a revised version to the Online Feedback Course with Helen Mort, leading to further changes”


  • ahamlett

    Hello Peter. I remember this one from the course and it stayed with me. Good to read it again. Hope you are well. Anne.

  • Peter Wise

    Hi Anne, Hope you’re well. Thank you for your kind comment. Are you doing any PS courses at the moment? I’m doing How to Get Rich – Vocabulary, Idiolect and Iconography with Roddy Lumsden and the Online Feedback Course with Antony Dunn – both excellent. All the best, Peter

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Image Credits:

Image: “Storks, swans, etc.”

Image credit: Eadweard Muybridge