Martin Wyatt: Samples

About now, every second year,
There comes a letter that I fear:
It’s a short, fat, brown thing, meaning
Time for bowel-cancer screening.
The N.H.S. gives out a kit
To tell you how to do your bit.

While I’ve no reason here to say
Receipt of this communiqué
Would cause much more distress to me
Than to the public generally,
It’s only natural to express
A modicum of squeamishness.

The envelope contains instructions
On how to manage your productions.
You’ll also find, in there, the sticks
(Of which you’ll need three pairs, so, six)
And last, there is the sample-card.
Now concentrate: this part is hard:

There are six spaces, triple-flapped,
To hold three samples of what’s trapped.
Each flap is lifted to reveal
Two windows, which you use, then seal.
Your sample must be taken right:
This means, it must be caught “in flight”.

For cricketers, a catch fulfils
The need to hone their fielding skills,
But most folk simply wish that they
Were somewhere very far away
But bulk is not required at all ‒
The bit they test is very small.

You use stick one to take a sample
From the left side of the example.
The second of the sticks they send
Is used to probe the other end.
Both sticks are then, with painful care,
Smeared on the windows of each pair.

Once Flap 1 is closed and dated
It’s OK to feel elated,
But you must do – this may amaze –
The others inside fourteen days.
Apparently, it cannot wait,
But has a “Best Before By” date.

In my own case, I’d have compunction
Offering a bodily function
Of needlessly offensive type:
Too hard, too soft, or over-ripe.
Best to avoid a spicy meal ‒
Timing is everything I feel.

I picture some young lab-girl clad
In white, just like a toothpaste ad,
As, with her pearly teeth clenched tight,
She deals with what I did last night.
Though confidential, like Confession,
You’d rather make a good impression.

The last flap closed, you feel much better,
But when you seal and stamp the letter
Please think of postal workers who
Perform this thankless task for you.
Perhaps one day they’ll write an App
Which can dispose of all this . . . stuff.