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Hear Mchael Rosen speak this poem - These are the hands Commoners Choir version singing on YouTube




These are the Hands
Michael Rosen for the 60th anniversary of the NHS

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.

Michael Rosen
About this poem

This poem is included in the second edition of Tools of the Trade: Poems for new doctors (Scottish Poetry Library, 2016). The anthology was edited by Kate Hendry; Dr Lesley Morrison, GP; Dr John Gillies, GP and Chair, Royal College of GPs in Scotland (2010-2014); Revd Ali Newell, and Lilias Fraser. A copy of the first edition was given to all graduating doctors in Scotland in 2014 and 2015, and with support from RCGPS and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, to all graduating doctors in 2016, 2017 and 2018. We are very grateful for the individual donations which funded the cost of this anthology, and to the Deans of the Scottish medical schools who made it possible to give the books to their graduating students.


These are the Hands - for lockdown
(Commoners Choir – after Michael Rosen)

These are the hands...
That stack the shelves, that cook the meals
That wheel the gurneys, that farm the fields
That make the beds, that clean the drain
Deliver the milk and guard the train.

These are the hands...
That run the bus, that pen the poems,
That drive the vans, that manage the homes,
That run the food banks day after day,
That gather and pack and then give it away.

These are the hands...
That leave the gifts, that gather the crops,
Collect the waste, that serve in the shops,
That clean the toilets, report the news,
That lap the yard, that sell the booze.

These are the hands...
That tend the parks, that bottle the pills,
That pick the fruit, that waive the bills,
That sweep the streets, that visit the sick,
That teach our kids arithmetic.

One and one is two. Two and two is four.
We don’t want to go back to the way we were before.

These are the hands...
That carry the shopping, that pull the weeds,
deliver the babies, plant the seeds,
That mix the medicine, bring the post.
These are the hands that matter the most.#

These are the hands...
Asylum seekers, refugees,
Who do the work that nobody sees,
Who left their countries overseas,
To work the world for you and me.

These are the hands...
These are the hands...
And after the clapping has faded away
Remember what we learned today.