Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poem for National Poetry Month

I found this poem in a nursing journal. It was written by Ellen Bihler, who says, "I was haunted by this patient's doomed struggle to maintain her independence. I struggled with guilt, knowing my assessment might land her in an institution. Then, when the police intervened before I could, I realized I wasn't that powerful after all." This was printed in the American Journal of Nursing:

Wound Care

She reaches,
overshoots, lists into the wall.
Pinned against peeling wallpaper,
she finds the light switch, then her breath.
The refrigerator motor vibrates
the slumped room to quivers.
A child's orange handprints on construction paper -
six years since she's seen this grandchild.
She tunes the radio to all talk.
The host humiliates another caller.

The first time I made a visit,
she's all pride and wariness.
Her leg wound's wrapped in half
a roll of toilet paper,
"Clean, right from the store."
The last time, she falls through the gauze
curtain into dementia.

I bring the narrowing of the world.
I'm the messenger of lasts:
The last time she scrambles an egg,
draws a bath, hears her own telephone ring.

My Social Services referral arrives too late.
The cops pick her up that weekend, staggering
down Railroad Avenue in her slip.
My carefully wrapped wound dressing
unravels behind,
bloody like a crime scene.


Bob Hale said...

To those (We both know who I mean ;) ) who would say that that isn't a poem just text broken into lines I say "humbug".

It's a poem and a damn fine one, at that.

Cat said...

A well-crafted poem. Very sad, though.

Kalleh said...

Yes, I agree that it's a "damn fine one." I Googled her last night to see what else I could find.

Probably a few years ago (before I met Bob), I'd have not liked the poem because of lack of meter and rhyme. But my horizons have definitely been broadened.