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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