Kate Venables


Henry Tonks was a surgeon and artist who worked with Harold Gillies the pioneer facial surgeon.

The wound’s not the thing, it’s the trust –
young faces with clear eyes looking straight
at you above slipped jaws, open mouths,
loose tongue, swollen lips.  Survivors, hopeful –
you can almost feel the soft curls
of beard on cheeks and neck –
back in Blighty for a good long stay
out of it for good and this man Gillies
is good they say.  I’ll wait a bit then get
the nurse to write my girl.
It’s the ‘after’ faces
above their jackets and ties
that are wary, guarded, scapegoated,
lonely.  Not seen, not recognised.


Kate Venables is a doctor.  She is also enrolled in the University of Oxford creative writing programme.  Other work has appeared in Lighthouse, Flash, The Lake, Miso, and the 2014 Hippocrates anthology.

Note: The Royal College of Surgeons holds a collection of his pastels of the faces of men wounded in the First World War, before and after reconstructive surgery.

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