A Day in the Real Lives of Angels | John Anstie

Not so very long ago, when I was fit 
as a butcher’s dog, what seems like
a time warp passing across the Milky Way 
when the seeds of our downfall were sown 
in a way that’s beyond comprehension, 
there grew a progenitor, an apocalyptic 
but as yet unknown force, more powerful 
than anything we knew, to which we 
could never yield, because we had 
no choice, like war, but without plans.

The victims are dazed, half conscious, 
half alive, inflamed and drowning in 
black water, systems fractured, powered off 
including ordnance, a military defensive 
without armour, damage limitation for 
lost causes, no time to bury their dead 
the wives and mothers, sons and daughters 
husbands, fathers, family and friends 
left out in the cold. No touching of hands 
bereavement on hold, for some other time
another world, some other parallel existence. 

As if in that other unreachable, longed for 
place of sanctuary and rest, Elysian Fields 
where angels dare with mercy’s offered
by saints with greatest care, unprotected 
in spite of fallible humanity, disregarding 
concern for their own… 

This is what they came to do. Isn’t it true 
they save lives, these compassionate heroes
these very normal, extraordinarily ordinary 
supernaturally humane people, who walk 
among us, the ordinary, extraordinarily lucky 
human beings. Do we truly deserve them? 
From time to time, we show appreciation 
for their dedication as they run between 
the cracks and the faults in our lives. 

But we rarely see behind their professional 
masks, the anxieties, the personal struggles, 
the humanity that exudes from every pore 
even when you look them straight in their eyes 
in the line of fire, they prepare a family for 
the inevitable, another ending too close 
to the last. Overwhelmed by new beginnings 
and more bad NEWS…

The truth that is too sanitised for consumption 
in our comfy armchair homes, we only want 
to hear not this; not what we truly need to know. 
But how else will we comprehend an urgent need 
To cry. To lobby. To action. To shout from the hilltop 
To understand. To march and never give up 
lighting the fire and fighting the liar in the dock 
fighting for the right to life, the right to social justice 
not the right to exploit for greed, for enrichment 
for personal gain, or rebel against natural wisdom 
and science, or assert a semblance of civil rights. 

Civil Rights for whom? 

Whose pain and suffering will this alleviate?  
How much will those angels and saints endure? 
Facing an onslaught of mind-numbing ignorance, 
whilst facing their own demise? How long for those 
who mourn, to rise and grieve for the final tingling 
touch of a hand? For their spring, barely sprung 
their lives just begun, not yet able to understand 
what they are losing ... and the angels chose to care. 

A haunting echo of children singing, somewhere 
across the playground, somewhere across the universe, 
somehow you feel an unexpected swelling in the depths
of your throat that caught you by surprise, unaware.

How dare their sweetest innocence awaken this grief 
inside, a fear of Armageddon, after a daylong toll of death 
you were at your most vulnerable, you were least prepared 
least able to hold it all inside. Your defences were down.

There is no denying this feeling, when all is said and done.
From out of the mouths of children, who opened your eyes 
to coming home, to reconciliation, to finding your love
came your most important gift of all … your own truth. 

This piece of writing is based on a sort of interview style conversation with a friend, a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, who has been at the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic since it started. I am very grateful to her that she participated willingly, at times almost as if she was glad of an opportunity to talk about what she has been  through with someone outside of the medical establishment, outside of the claustrophobic bubble that has constricted her life for so long, but to which she has dedicated herself with unquestioning professionalism. One very remarkable and courageous woman.


©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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