the Last Poem

Magazines, newspapers, books, and notebooks covered every surface in the living room; a mess of stained, rumpled, rotting paper covered with asymmetrical sketches of coffee, wine, beer, whisky, ashes. Charles put his newspaper down, grunting as his hand fumbled for the source of the persistent buzzing. He moved his foot and created a cascade of clinking, a wind chime of empty bottles. Finding his phone gave him no joy; a bitter taste of angst covered his dry tongue as a tight knot took hold of his swollen stomach.  

“Hello, there. This is Pat from the doctor’s office. It seems you missed your appointment—”

“Fuck off, Pat!” Charles switched off his phone and threw it at the armchair opposite.

With shaky hands, he lit a cigarette and rummaged through the pile on the floor. There was a bottle with a little wine left. Without hesitation, he gulped it down, then wanted more. His knees loudly rebelled when he stood up to trudge to the kitchen, zigzagging around the cadavers of bottles, cans, glasses and unsteady stacks of books. He kicked a side table, toppling a large ashtray. He cursed and sneezed as ghostly dust tickled his nostrils. 

A shooting pain radiated through his belly and travelled to his back. Black spots blurred his vision. 

He fell in slow motion.


“Here he is. Hello there, Mr Jones. I’m nurse Gail. Welcome back.” The cheerful grin made him growl.

A splitting headache forced his hands to his face, a useless attempt to shield his eyes. “What happened?”

“The doctor will be with you shortly to talk to you. Can I get you anything?”

“Something to drink.”

The nurse dashed to the side table and held the back of his head as he swallowed. “Now, is there anyone I can call for you? A family member?”


“I see. Any friends or neighbours?”


Her smile dropped. “I’m sorry.”

“Fuck off with your pity, you b—”

“Oh, I see, you’re that type. I’ll fetch the doctor for you, then.”

“Wait. I need a pen and some paper or a notebook. Something to write on.”

“I’ll see what I can find.”


The youthful doctor gazed at his charts before tilting his head. “You have a few weeks at most.”

“I knew that already. I asked for something to write on.”

“I’m sure the nurse will—”

“I need to write my last poem.”

“So, you’re a writer?”

“Just find me something to write on. How hard can it be?”

“I’ll let the nurse know.”


Charles spent the next few days scribbling and throwing pages across the room in a rage.

I can’t do it. 

“Nurse! Nurse!”

When no one came, he pressed the button by his bed. Again and again and again.
Nurse Gail appeared at the door, a scowl across her pretty face.

“Ah, nurse, finally. I need a drink. I can’t write.”

“The water is right next to you.”

“Not water! I need something stronger.”

“You’re in a hospital, not a hotel.”

“I can’t write! I need to write this piece for my daughter—”

“I thought you didn’t have any family.”

Charles glared at her.

“Would you like me to contact your daughter for you?”

“No. I would not. I need a drink to write her a poem.”
Nurse Gail sighed. “I can’t help you. I’d lose my job. But I can call your daughter. What’s her name?”


“That’s a beautiful name. What’s her surname?”

“I’m not sure. Her maiden name was Evans.”

“Ah. Where does she live?”

“I don’t know.”

“I take it you’re not close.”

“I left… I couldn’t write with an infant wailing in the next room. It was too much. I was too young.”

“I see.”

“Please, get me a drink. I need to write her a poem.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that.”


Nurse Gail found him cold and blue during her morning rounds. Crumpled papers littered the room. One page was placed against the glass on the table next to the bed.


I’m sorry.”


Eight of cups/hearts – relationships, friendships, emotions, health, the body.

Eight of wands/clubs – work, study, aspirations, change, creativity

Eight of wands/clubs – work, study, aspirations, sharing, communication

Marie-Louise McGuinness (She/her) comes from a wonderfully neurodiverse household in rural Northern Ireland. She has work published in Splonk, Bending Genres, Intrepidus Ink, The Metaworker, JAKE, Roi Faineant Press, The Airgonaut and Flash Fiction Magazine amongst others. She enjoys writing from a sensory perspective.

She tweets @mlmcguinness

Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos (She/her) is a Breton writer, teacher, mother, nature and music lover, foodie, dreamer. She loves butter, needs coffee, hates easy opening packaging, and likes to create stories in her head. She lives in Athens, Greece. 

Twitter @DelGeo14