Threads in Tapestries

This poem was submitted by Jonathan Richards, FRCGP, Visiting Professor of Primary Care, University of South Wales, written in response to reading Why We Revolt.  The Patient Revolution team is grateful to Jonathan for allowing us to share his beautiful words.  

Threads  in  tapestries  
by Jonathan Richards

for  Victor  Montori  

As  I  walked  in  to  the  Department  Store  yesterday  
I  caught  sight  of  a  retired  teacher,  known  for  twenty  years.  
Our  lives  imprinted  one  into  each  other,  life’s  lines  crossed.  
I  will  never  forget  the  boiled  egg  Hodgkin’s  gland  nestling  
in  the  hollow  above  the  collarbone  of  her  young  son.
It  was  the  oncologist  who  saved  his  life,  I  might
have  missed  it  had  I  not  been  paying  enough  attention.  

Within  the  hour  I  visited  another  retired
teacher,  known  for  thirty  years,  for  Home  Communion. 
Memories  came  as  I  drove  away:  her  only  son  
might  have  died  if  I  had  not  checked  his  blood,  in  case. 
I  had  always  feared  missing  Addison’s;  I  always
tested.  His  kidneys  were  failing;  they  were  caught  in  time.  
A  transplant  has  saved  him;  now  a  father  of  three.
Threads  from  the  tapestry  of  my  life  woven  into  
theirs:  mothers,  sons  and  following  generations.  
Yarn  from  their  lives  knotted  into  mine  as  we  passed  by,    
changing  directions,  finding  doors  open  and  new  roads.
A  working  life  of  meeting  people,  touching,  glancing,  
becoming  entangled  for  a  time.  Or  for  ever.
Discontinuous  wefts  compacted  into  patterns.
On  both  sides. 


From Jonathan - I served the people of Merthyr Tydfil, one of the most deprived and unhealthy communities in England and Wales, as a Family Doctor from 1981-2015. I have always had an interest in what happens when people meet with a doctor or nurse. I was a Clinical Director, responsible for quality and service improvements in the National Health Service from 2010-2016.

I have been learning to write poetry and was a Masters in Writing student at the University of South Wales in 2015-2017.

I encountered 'Why We Revolt' and it both stretched my mind and imagination and sang tunes that resonated in my heart. I was especially struck by the metaphor of weaving for the clinician/person relationship. (I prefer not to use the word patient.)

It was in my mind as I arrived at the experiences in this poem and in my mind as the poem arrived a couple of hours later. After putting the words down, I was struck by how ideas from the Primo Levi poem 'To My Friends' had arrived. I have now reconsidered my life's work as a partnership with my friends.