Mandy Willis


I surface with dread in my chest feeling disjointed and small
The walls close beside me both familiar and cruel

No light through the window to give me a clue
If I lie here real quiet I’ll work out what to do 

Am I late or in trouble, made a mistake or a fuss?
A fleeting thought to make sense but just left with the husk

Do I know this place around me and the feet in the hall?
Relief when I see her, nothing to fear now at all

Slowly rise up, my body creaking and frail
This feels wrong, too vulnerable, I’m not doing this well

Wrestle my robe and slippers to tame
A stick that might help but resentment remains

My stomach clenches and churns chilling me to the core
What can be happening today to make me so pensive and sore?

I stand by my board clasping the words and their plans
Must repeat to absorb, can I believe their white hand?

A break to my fast, checking what is acceptable to eat
Feel surprised when told I find morning coffee a treat

Coloured tablets are passed which I swallow in faith
Until agitation descends, bidding me to that place

Will my body behave let me respond to its pull?
Frowning I attempt to manoeuvre, worried and full

My first hours in the day are a perilous climb
As the night steals my memories one at time

My thoughts fly so quickly leaving feelings behind
As I grapple for meaning and attempt to rewind

The beast fills me up, reassurance tries to restore
Buts it’s never long before its back grabbing me in its claw.


Please wheel me with care, gently comb and style my hair.
Make sure that my clothes match, have no creases, or spotted patch.

Please speak to me using understanding and grace, 
Remember my wishes, give me time, an unpressured pace.

Make sure my face and hands are clean,
Leaving no trace of where yesterday's been.

Please ensure I eat things that I like,
No meats, coconut, tea and that all textures feel right.

Please understand that the sea is the route to my soul,
without seeing and hearing it often I just wither not grow.

Please think to predict that my skin easily burns,
that my eyes need time to adjust to the sun, dark or new words.

Please consider the years, history and wisdom still here in my core.
Know a day pointed at a tv is unfulfilling, for as a human I require something more.

Most of all I implore you to comprehend the things that I hate,
that over the years I have learnt to avoid, the experiences I just do not rate.

Never make me do crafts, patronise me with colouring in,
I’ve never chosen to paint, mould, sew, glue or, draw.
It would frustrate me, bemuse me, make my feelings too sore.

Please know if you wheel me there having taken no care,
I will eat sequins by the handful to prove I should never be there!

6/8/2021. After visiting Dad in his new care home when a member of staff wheeled the wrong resident out to meet us in our full PPE

Mandy Willis works as a clinical psychologist in a general hospital with patients with acquired injuries and long-term health conditions. She uses narrative therapy based on social constructionist principles to help her patients come to terms with their experiences. To capture their unique meaning and so enable compassionate understanding. In a similar way she writes poetry to process her own life events and emotions. The poem Uncertainty was written as her father’s dementia deteriorated during lockdown. Language is the route to understanding ourselves, our history and our independence. As his language reduced, she wanted to capture his daily experience, finding herself writing in a simpler form. As he moved into residential care she wrote ‘Take Care’  as he became reliant on others with little language to express his own needs and preferences.

Flights, Issue Five, June 2022