The Unsung 

 I will not clap for you – forgotten, tethered, unsung. 

Piecing together the story from a look on their face, the blood.  

Moments so pernicious, so painful. 

“I always wanted to help people” echoes past the flickering lights  

and cold coffee as you roll up your sleeves knowing  

someone’s mother, brother, neighbour waits. 


I cannot clap for you – wayfinders. Suturing hope in shifts 

from behind a curtain, a pane of glass. 

Slides of sliced skin, their vibrant colour-answers 

hide in clouds and ink blots. Yet you navigate to a person.  

Entering homes frothing with fear, you leave behind  

something shaped like a warm embrace. 


I dare not clap for you – shamans glowing in the shade.  

Seeking glimmers of hope, holding plasma up to the light. 

How do you conjure smiles and successes 

without any sleep or certainty? Nurturing faith from crumbling chaos. 

Patien[ts/ce] unaware of your service  

mouthing prayer-like, ‘troponin’ or ‘palliative’.  


Take this pen, my paper, these words. 

But I promise you no applause, 

For applause implies the work has ended. 


Hanan Issa,  

National Poet of Wales 

A poem to mark the 75th anniversary of the National Health Service. The poem and its translation into Welsh by Grug Muse were commissioned by Literature Wales.

Back to Hanan Issa’s Commissioned Poems and Creative Work