I am a rare English nurse in my team,
Working amongst the kindest, the most patient, the young,
And those over from the Philippines, Poland, Sri Lanka, Kerela, Romania and Nepal,
To care for the British old.
Night after night we clean up incontinence,
Cream, papery white skin,
Turn skeletal limbs, to stop sores,
Bring tea, hold bony gnarled hands,
Feed ham sandwiches, creamy fruit yoghurts, shortbread, cake
To those in shadowy lit worlds, between the living and dead
Who no longer recognise their children
And call out for their long dead mothers.
We hold their unease, their dislocation.
We are greeted with screams and scratches, sometimes kisses and ‘darlings’
Moments of recognition, of laughter and an occasional song
Eyes glazed and scared, where am I, what’s wrong?
Those who come to judge, forget to notice our care.
We are checked for records, targets, evidence for court,
Piles and piles of written justifications
As though we were the guilty ones.
This is the tragedy, the lack of belief
An absence of trust,
A desire to blame.
Misunderstanding the passage of time,
The inevitability of death
And the soaring, overriding, magnitude…
Of love and what love can truly mean.