at Rainbows Hospice for children
By Sally Read
You lift a hand and almost hold a drum:
tiny ball-bearings avalanche down
the enclosed drum-skin as it’s tilted
on your lap by a woman
so it sounds like the ocean:
the pull and draw on shingle. White
roar, gritty peter to silence.
The woman’s not your mother
but she’s learnt to read you from
the angles of your head, smiles
that seem like the flutter
of a divining-rod miles above water.
She reaches to you often to stroke
your cropped blonde hair from your face.
Often, like a phrenologist determining
the mind from forehead, furrows,
ridges of the skull. She’s trying
to un-snag you from your cradle
of seized muscles, to show you the sea.
How will you know it:
drum-skin and shaken metal?
How does she know you from a gaze
that wavers as though through a pane
of green glass? I think of a mother’s
hands delineating over again a silky skull,
smoothing the legs of an infant,
as if we tell our children their forms
through our hands.Your hand’s
placed on top of the drum as if
to hear the rattle, spray, spume.
Something shifts like a newborn’s
deep eyes losing their inwardness
at sound beyond a room,
its hollow innuendo of distance.
Will you lift your head for me, darling?
at Rutland Care Village
By Esther Morgan
and the gentleman curled in a wheelchair
consents to being made more comfortable.
Here is an etiquette respectful
of what can still be decided on:
chicken and mushroom or beef and vegetable
for the pies they are making this morning;
which preserves a discretion at the heart of intimacy –
lowering a body into a bath
not like a baby,
but a piece of inherited china,
dressing that fine-bone frailty
like buttoning gloves on a wedding day.
This is a touch between tenderness
(Her skin is so soft, sometimes I stroke her wrist and it calms her)
and an old-fashioned courtesy
which allows them the kitchens and farms
they think are still waiting a short walk away
across the cornfields in the late summer dusk.
So when a lady wanders over, distracted, and asks
Can I go home now? someone will take her arm gently
as if it were the end of the dance
and she were doing them the honour.
at Thera Trust
By Paul Batchelor
This must be the place where care begins,
where the soul takes its stand
against the kind of worldliness
that would show the sky its palms
and teach us to look away
to speak too soon
or not at all –
This must be the place; and we, the guests
of those we care for –
and they, most welcoming hosts –
here in the house they chose and decorated
in their favourite colours, where life is free
to announce itself like any visitor,
and there is room for everyday windfalls –
a £10 lottery scratch-card,
a day-trip to Scarborough –
Here we are far from the locked institute
where time passes slowly down the long corridors,
where someone lies awake and hears
mice in the rafters, or an inkling of rain on the roof,
and knows before they turn again to sleep
they have become a prisoner of care –
This, surely, must be the place –
And if they say community
means us, not you –
we’ll shrug and carry on
tending the garden, as one might cultivate
patience, in the hope
that it will stay for good this time;
and if they point and stare
or if ask us why, why anyone should care –
we’ll say – because
this must be the place.
This must be the place.
a Sue Ryder Care Hospice, Gloucestershire
By Clare Pollard
This is human place. You’re here. Breathe out.
We’ll take the path up to the door.
Ducklings criss-cross it, heads high, eyes
hungry for grass, water and skies,
one less than yesterday, but still mad-brave.
There are foxgloves, daisies, lavender’s proud spikes;
peach roses are full open, blown,
and terribly beautiful.
In the day hospice, kind hands serve tea and homemade cake,
snip-snip at fringes, rub poor toes with soothing oils;
some days a sing-song carries through the air.
In a light space full of beads and paint and glue,
an ex-army man’s taught
to twist a paper flower;
a new friend solves the clue to six across.
There’s been a party on the lawn, balloons
still jerk on strings,
white, pink, blue, green and red –
a day or two of joy still left.
Elsewhere, a doctor listens to the words for pain;
prescribes all that can be done.
A nurse walks someone’s children by the pond.
A hand is pressed. People are saying: love, love, love,
and on the terrace, sun sets.
There are times you can see the Black Mountains from here,
but not today.
Only ducklings break the calm with their wild quacks,
and there’s a scent of rosemary –
like sadness mixed with something
new and clear and strong.