Social care-inspired poetry collection

Ocean Drum

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

or stare;

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.


Leckhampton Court

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.



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