Listen to Miriam Culy read her poems.


Masked Smiles

Red crosses sit on most of the chairs,
in a waiting room where no one else is
waiting. I sanitise my pre-washed hands,
nervously, before you call me through:
come in / sit down / how can I help you?

I can sense that you are smiling at me:
though I can’t peer through your mask,
I can see it in your friendly blue eyes,
the only facial feature not hidden /
covered / protected by PPE. Open.

I smile back at you, then realise that
you can’t tell / you don’t know /
you can’t see it behind my make-shift mask.
So, I choose something to say, tell you that
I am smiling. I feel reassured by you.

You ask about the pain and then explain
the medication / treatment / things that
I can do. So, I thank you and then I leave.
Outside, I release my scarf and breathe.
Your kindness may seem small but

it helped me to be a little more brave /
confident / less daunted by it all.


Chronic Lockdown

I’ve heard you complain
about lockdown. About
staying inside and staying
at home. About not going
out. About being alone.

Did you hear us complain
about chronic fatigue? About
staying inside and staying
at home. About not going
out. About being alone.

Do you get it now? That
being ill all the time and
staying at home isn’t “fine.”
We didn’t sign up for this.
We’re fed up of not going out

and of being alone.

This extends for us further
than lockdown. This has
lasted for longer than Covid.
The effects will drag on after
you’re back to your norm.

Will you leave us in our
illness’s lockdown? When
we still stay inside and stay
at home? When we don’t go
out will you reach out to us

or will we still be alone?



Miriam Culy is an eighteen-year-old girl who discovered poetry as a creative outlet for the frustration that comes with chronic illness, and a method of explaining her situation to others. She has written a feature for the Young Poets’ Network on pain poetry, and how her writing has helped her to cope with chronic illness. Visit
her Facebook page, Unuttered: poetry & art.