BMJ Support Palliat Care 3:223 doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2013-000502
  • Poem

Ode to Pain

By David Kelsey (1954–2013)

Hello, old friend,

Long time no see

What new delights

Have you got for me?

Pull up a chair and

Let me look

At your smiling face

You sick old fuck.

Hot, sharp knives

And bands of steel,

Lightning bolts

And the breaking wheel.

Nothing else?

Well, that's a shame.

Guess we'll just play

Our usual game.

I must admit

You caught me cold

With the cancer card,

Must be getting old.

But now I see you

Bright and clear,

So let's get it on,

Pull your chair up near.

Let's remind ourselves

Of the rules of our game,

And decide on the stakes

(Which are always the same)

A point for you

For each sleepless night;

A point for me

When I fight a good fight.

A trick for you

If you make me cry out;

A trick for me

If I don't start to doubt.

A hand for you

If I start to lose hope:

A hand for me

If I re-climb that slope.

But what's this I see?

A new card in the pack;

A dark, smiling man

With a scythe on his back.

‘A friend’ you say

And ‘Death’ is his name;

I think you just altered

The rules of our game.

Ah, well, raise the stakes,

The first round to you;

But don't you forget

I brought my friends here too.

Published by kind permission of David Kelsey's family.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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