The receptionists’ job criteria required
crease crossed eyebrows
bent so angry eyes were sheltered doubly
(perspex sheltered their brilliance physically)
They expected lateness, no appointment, or
appointments not today. No English either. Done
on purpose, to annoy

Then you’d to sit policed by stares for hours. Until
a hornet-faced nurse demanded which patients
were guilty of their names on her list?
She guarded, guided the unfortunates through closed doors
into secret caverns with prison lighting
as if underwater:

                     blood pressure, piss samples, weight
were checked. Nurses circled, shark-like, toddlers
were hungrily eyed, unless kept from under their important
feet. They were so busy!

                Rainbow-vivid anti-smoking posters
threatened us with death. Reminded how lucky we
were, we made mental notes - should we survive, escape
into daylight, breathe Forest Gate fresh air - the first
celebration owed our self respect would be pulling out
those battered packets of Sovereign or No 6,
                                        and sparking up a cigarette!