Autumn, and the nights are darkening.
The old lady tells us of her past once more.
She muses on the days she spent nursing
at ten shillings a month. ‘And what exams!
I could understand anything in those days.
What summers we had then, what lovely autumns.’
And so I imagine her cycling to her work
among the golden leaves, down avenues,
to hospitals which were disciplined and stark
with hard-faced matrons, doctors jovial
with an authority that was never quizzed,
while grizzled Death suckled at his phial,
and autumn glowed and died, outside the ward,
and girlishly she saw it fade in red
in sky and sheet, and evening was barred
with strange sweet clouds that hung above the bed.
About this poem
This poem is included in the second edition of Tools of the Trade: Poems for new doctors (Scottish Poetry Library, 2016). The anthology was edited by Kate Hendry; Dr Lesley Morrison, GP; Dr John Gillies, GP and Chair, Royal College of GPs in Scotland (2010-2014); Revd Ali Newell, and Lilias Fraser. A copy of the first edition was given to all graduating doctors in Scotland in 2014 and 2015, and with support from RCGPS and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, to all graduating doctors in 2016, 2017 and 2018. We are very grateful for the individual donations which funded the cost of this anthology, and to the Deans of the Scottish medical schools who made it possible to give the books to their graduating students.