The latest in my series of poems about the ‘bad girls’ of fiction – this time Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I based the poem on the character in the book, rather than the film. She is a horrible character but she puts up with a lot of abuse too.

In the book, the Chief believes she is a machine. I’ve used that as one of the themes in my poem. I’ve used a blank verse structure to reflect her desire for order.

The corners are smooth, the edges pressed and

folded.  White walls and clean lines.  The swish of

a skirt and the whirring of a motor.

The big nurse has arrived with a wicker bag

full of spare parts – gleaming silver cogs and

ends of copper wire snaking out through

the weave.  Mildred likes order – a handful

of pills between polished white teeth.  Swept tiles.

A list of names and a line of men. They

look but must never touch.  She controls.

They hate and desire her.  A gold cross on

a starched bosom reflecting white light.

Funny orange lips like the tip of a

soldering iron.  She fixes the broken.

An administering angel giving

peace of mind to the disturbed. Cold breath.

The grinding of gears and a scream of pain.

Chaos returns to order.  For a moment

there’s a glimpse of a white, warped fury. Then

it’s gone and the ward is silent again.

Rows of square white tiles polished like teeth.

Corners folded and hands are tied.  Hinges

creak and the machine rumbles on,

lipstick fixed and head high.  Sweet as sugar.

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