Hospital Footpath


a selection of photos of the location of a poem along the Hospital Footpath, Scunthorpe

Seven Visits to Scunthorpe General

Rebecca Nolan

A Poem Commissioned for Of Earth and Sky.

Rebecca ran a series of workshops gathering poems by visitors to 20-21, North Lincolnshire Museum, Scunthorpe Central and Ashby Link. She was also involved in the selection process for poems in Of Earth and Sky. 


Seven Visits to Scunthorpe General

1985 / ten

Sitting on the kerb outside Robert Holme Hall
in the evening sun,
knees folded in the gutter,
listening to Geraldine Jones tell me how babies are made.
I said I didn’t believe her.
My mum and dad would never do something so disgusting.

(Later, at the Leisure Centre
beneath the fibreboard sun,
waves lapping at the tiled shore,
I told my dad what she had said
and he said it was true.
In the changing room loos, I sat down and wept.)

1993 / eighteen

I was in the ladies’ when my waters broke.
Embarrassed by making a mess,
I tried to mop it up with toilet paper.
My sister had given me a book that said: imagine yourself opening up like a flower.
I’d packed incense and an Enya cassette.
The drugs arrived too late
and I went too fast (‘like a rocket’, they said).
My mum and dad could hear me screaming from the corridor.

(The second time around,
‘We know what you’re like’, they said,
and wouldn’t give me any drugs at all.
Instead I drained a canister of gas and air.
‘You look like Frank from Blue Velvet,’
said my boyfriend, and tried to stroke my face.
‘Careful,’ said the midwife,
‘she’ll bite your fingers off.’)

1996 / twenty-one

The magazines on Ward 18
were all Take a Break and Chat!,
telling tales of lovers murdered by cheating husbands’ postman’s daughters.
I thought it was a strange choice of reading material
for people who were already depressed.

2000 / twenty-five

‘Never have children,’ my father would say.
‘I ought to have been a priest!’
And—with me and my sisters in dungarees and docs—
‘I wish I’d had daughters!’
But when the end came, all of us sitting by his bed,
he said we were his legacy.

Later, I will imagine that if I hadn’t let go of his hand,
he would still be here.

2014 / thirty-nine

Glass lungs, whistling like panpipes, leaking air.
I called an ambulance at my sister’s say-so,
embarrassed by making a fuss.
Isabelle, in the bed opposite, says NO to everything.
A scribble of hair and a screwed-up scowl,
waiting for a place at the home that arrives too late.

2018 / forty-three

The pain is worse than childbirth.
Crystal pebbles, hidden in a hollow pear.
I am riddled with gall,
puking up paracetamol,
sobbing on the floor of the disabled toilet.
Nobody can tell me why.

(The fifth time around,
a doctor will diagnose me in seconds:
a textbook case.
And the nurse will admire my glasses.
‘From Prada,’ I tell her
But the text to my sister says Pravda.)

2020 / forty-five

The phone call wakes me up.
Mum’s tested positive, my sister says.
Only one of us can visit,
for fifteen minutes,
when the end comes.
Whoever it is, holding her hand will not be allowed.



Artwork Location


Cliff Gardens/Highfield Avenue turning. DN15 7EA

What3Words: ///speech.added.gazed

Go to the Of Earth and Sky art trail map