Five O'Clock Shadow

A poem by John Betjeman

This is the time of day when we in the Mens' ward
Think "one more surge of the pain and I give up the fight."
When he who struggles for breath can struggle less strongly:
This is the time of day which is worse than night.

A haze of thunder hangs on the hospital rose-beds,
A doctors' foursome out of the links is played,
Safe in her sitting-room Sister is putting her feet up:
This is the time of day when we feel betrayed.

Below the windows, loads of loving relations
Rev in the car park, changing gear at the bend,
Making for home and a nice big tea and the telly:
"Well, we've done what we can. It can't be long till the end."

This is the time of day when the weight of bedclothes
Is harder to bear than a sharp incision of steel.
The endless anonymous croak of a cheap transistor
Intensifies the lonely terror I feel.

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