The Regency

Sleep splinters into shards of pain: a child
in terror: hapless, scalding cries. You page
the duty nurse, reporting what you’ve seen
and heard: disturbed; frail ribs like wicker work,
back weeping blood. She doesn’t blink. “We’ll move
you straightaway. Don’t fret, you’re not the first.
Place used to be a workhouse years ago.
This bit was where the naughty boys got birched.

Some talk of fearful noises, others tell
of ghosts. It only happens now and then.
Perhaps you’re more suggestible than most.”
You’ve paid to lose your worry lines, the years
beneath your chin. While counting down from ten,
watch crimson stripes appear on smooth white skin.

—Peter Branson, South Cheshire, England