Author Archives: Keith Lander



Lying in intensive care
staring at the bleeping machines
fed by pulses
travelling along wires
connected to various parts of me
I see the curve of my heartbeat,
not sinusoidal like the mains,
thankfully not a straight line
(which I wouldn’t see),
but a complex waveform
repeating over and over
that can be approximated
using the arcane maths
of Fourier analysis.
This tells me that if God exists
he must be one helluva mathematician.

Formatting Poems

Here is a way of formatting poems using the Lineate plugin I added a few years ago. The last example would be formatted as follows:

[stanza] [lineate]In Xanadu did Kubla Khan[/lineate] [lineate indent=1]A stately pleasure-dome decree :[/lineate] [lineate indent=2]Where Alph, the sacred river, ran[/lineate] [lineate indent=3]Through caverns measureless to man[/lineate] [/stanza]


Gall Bladder

Gall Bladder

When you bile potaters
don’t let ’em run over onto the stove.
There was something very vexing
about his attitude.
By this time I was feeling gloomy;
the events of the day had stirred my bile:
no sleep all night
pain in the back
emergency ambulance
now this ultrasonic joker.

One week and twenty one drips
of antibiotics later:
you can go home now,
it sometimes happens after cardiac surgery.

How galling.

Green Man

Green man

I am bound with creepers
to the trunk of a dead tree,
red squirrels are attending me.
They bathe my brow with honeydew
bear my breast to the morning sun.

A man dressed in green
appears from the trunk
of a nearby elm
with long tendrils for hands
a face carved out of oak.

A unicorn trots into the scene
carrying a blade in its jaws.
The green man grabs it with glee
walks up to me, points at my heart,
and with a creaking smile cuts it in two.

The surgeon drops by in the night.
He is dressed in green.
His hands are long and lean.
He asks how I’m feeling,
says the procedure went well.


Another in my operation sequence. This poem describes the admission process.


Report to the Admissions Suite.
Ignore the time on the letter,
come at three o’ clock,
then you won’t have to wait long
for a bed.

Admissions Suite sounds too much like
Departure Lounge. A holiday. Sunshine.
You came with me, worried sick,
wanting a last kiss, a wave goodbye…
Then I was alone.

Four of us in the ward. Three
already processed, showing off
their zipper chests. Coughing.
Jokey. Don’t worry you’ll be fine.
Take the sedative.

The nurse gave me four bottles
of energy drink. Two for now,
two in the morning. The anaesthetist
came by, weighed me up.
Then the pill and sleep.


Today’s poem from my sequence.


Not until they were wheeling me
along a corridor to the theatre
did it hit me: this is happening.
Some time how long later
cannulas inserted, ECG attached
I fell down the rabbit hole
never saw the march hare
cheshire cat, or mad hatter:
it was dark and timeless there
while up here it was all happening:
six hours rebuilding my stilled heart.

Twelve hours down the rabbit hole
she woke me, softly asked me
to squeeze her hand, the nurse
in this incredible Wonderland.


I’m in the process of writing a sequence of poems about my heart op. Here is today’s effort.


He carried the murmur in his chest
as a boy climbing trees and football mad
as a teenage lover with his muted message
as a computer buff whose heart sang in binary
as an old man relaxing through the days
until his heart kicked off:
the murmur turned into a yell
then a scream
that took his breath away.

What you need is an aortic valve replacement
a Carpentier-Edwards Perimount Magna
the world’s most widely implanted tissue valve
built with bovine pericardial tissue
the tough tissue sac surrounding the heart of a cow.
It’s the first and only biomechanically engineered valve
designed specifically for the aortic position.
Proven exceptional durability for 20 years.

Pleached Limes

Here’s a slightly mad poem from the Erdigg workshop.

Pleached Limes

On a cowless path between corsetted trees,
well-heeled ladies shade from Apollo;
you could say they are bleached,
not done to a turn, but taking a turn,
promenading far from the ha-ha
and tanning studio of the open field.

There are daguerreotypes of such antics
hanging from the walls of this jerry-built pile
with its steel ceilings, fake marble pillars
and luddite squires who had no truck with electrics,
banned wheels and telephones, even the post.
But did like stilts, and fire extinguishers.