TWENTIETH CENTURY POEM

Nurses

In the tendrils of their care
I leaf and learn again.

Life's better for knowing them
they're fun, down to earth, so young.
I may be mother, but now
I'm utterly dependent.

They wash me, change me, talk to me,
wipe away the spills and tears
clean pin-sites, understand
but do not pander to my pain.

Every morning they pile up pillows
to lift me higher,
an arm under each elbow
and one around my waist, until

a new patient, more ill than me
under investigation
grabs their attention.

Like cattle at dusk their faces
loom in the half-light, voices low
as they struggle with tubes and pumps
to save a life.

I'm left alone --
abandoned --
riding the rocking horse of jealousy
unable to understand anything

as violence envelops
and threatens to topple.

Cicely Herbert

NINETEENTH CENTURY POEM

Staff Nurse: New Style

Blue-eyed and bright of face but waning fast
Into the sere of virginal decay,
I view her as she enters, day by day,
As a sweet sunset almost overpast.
Kindly and calm, patrician to the last,
Superbly falls her gown of sober grey,
And on her chignon's elegant array
The plainest cap is somehow touched with caste.
She talks Beethoven; frowns disapprobation
At Balzac's name, sighs it at poor George Sand's;
Knows that she has exceedingly pretty hands;
Speaks Latin with a right accentuation;
And gives at need (as one who understands)
Draught, counsel, diagnosis, exhortation.

W.E. Henley
Home | In Hospital