Crem forms

One thing you’re paid in cash for
As a junior doctor
Is filling in forms
for the crematorium

Finally, time
To study the file, to catalogue
Dying of 1a, 1b, exacerbated by c
And wish you knew this all before

You summarise, we worked hard
But death worked harder
Sometimes, the more you like them
The worse the prognosis

You write, I examined the body
It looked nothing like any living person
But I believe it to belong
To the aforementioned protagonist

You don’t write, it was a fucking tragedy, but concede
No suspicious circumstances surrounded the death
And pocket the tragedy
And the money

One girl
Bought a coat with hers
And went to and from work
In her fond and bitter memories

Crem Forms by Rachel Bingham, with the author’s permission.


Cremation (crem) forms are required if a patient is to be cremated in the UK. They confirm the identity of the deceased, and that the death was from natural causes. The forms attract small payments from undertakers, usually the only extras received above salary by junior doctors. You must see the body after death to complete the form, and if you were not present at the time of death, this entails a sombre visit to the mortuary. If the death was unexpected, or particularly sad, this can be an arresting and thought-provoking experience. Bingham captures the conflicting feelings.

Rachel Bingham is a London GP who has also worked at Freedom from Torture and for Médecin Sans Frontières. This and another poem were Commended in the 2017 Hippocrates prize for Poetry in Medicine.

Further info

  • The Hippocrates initiative for Poetry in Medicine runs the annual Hippocrates Poetry competition. You can buy the book of winning and commended poems for 2017 and previous years on their website.
  • Author details (well down the page, search for Rachel) from the Hippocrates Prize list.
  • The coats in the featured image are from TopShop

Contributed by

Neil Turner

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