Nursing home subversion


Diversional therapy

Our kelpie would stalk avian invaders
then give chase
______simply for the sport.


Friday afternoon
they herd us into the Activities Room
for diversional therapy
______threadbare songs
______childish games
____________Death Row Comedy Hour

It's a long way to Tipperary.
______Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do!
______I refuse to inquire.

I tell the nurse it is obscene
to focus on a post-nuptial synchronised rhythmic activity
in which the seat is given prominence.

'You've got a wicked mind, Padre.'
'All the wickeder for seeing you.'

Enter Big Nurse.

______Big Needle.

____________Big Sleep.

I check the stopwatch when I wake.
I do not tell Big Nurse
______her response time is a personal best.


Some Friday afternoons
I hear them coming
and ostentatiously
bury myself in a Sudoku, or
______slowly, aloud
pray the Lord's Prayer in Greek
______— Luke is enough —
hoping please God they'll leave me to it.

Or take my player and immerse myself
in the lilting melancholy of a Sibelius symphony
or sing along to Shosta's Siege of Leningrad
until Security forces the en suite
and leads me back to bed
Big Nurse comes with her riot shield in a teaspoon
and proffers it with honeyed words.

She does not know
______I always check the stopwatch.


The benchmark for banal
is a nursing home Christmas.

I sit grim and stony-faced under the tinsel
as they sing Jingle Bells
and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

'The Padre just doesn't understand Christmas.'
______I do.
There's the rub.


Now bewhiskered
for lack of one to shave me
______bedridden, frail and deaf
waiting for the priest to come
______as I so often came to others.

They told me later I had been asleep
and she had not wished to wake me.

Through the pain the medication and the torpor
I feel a gentle pressure on my hand.
I turn to see
______her Communion kit unopened
her lips moving
her prayer a silver flame
into which
I am ever so gently
______so lovingly
and cradled like a little child.
Bathed in this delicious silver warmth
my very bones glow
to hear the delight of angels heralding
that soon
____________this kelpie will run free

James McPhersonFr Jim McPherson is an Anglican priest based in Maryborough, Qld. 

Topic tags: new australian poems



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Existing comments

oh. oh. oh.
the pain and the yearning.
i have seen it too.

Thankyou Fr Jim, for clothing it with words

pirrial | 16 August 2011  

Why do we treat old people like idiots? A wonderful poem; I can't help thinking of a kelpie chasing angels now.

Penelope | 16 August 2011  

For several years now my family has been going through the distress of each parent progressing through illness, hospital and rehab, hostels and nursing homes, then the final indignities of banal funerals that have to keep everyone in the family "happy".

At my father's current hostel they often have music booming through the entire place as part of some 'entertainment' or another - the only thing I find worse is thinking of the music of my own generation (which I hated even as a teenager) blasting out when I get there. Dad spends his time shut up in what he calls - appropriately to this poem - his "dog box".

Russell Jones | 16 August 2011  

I cannot find words.
Perhaps there's no need of them.
The tears say it all.

Pamela Briggs | 16 August 2011  

How wonderfully observant and moving. I can feel and visualize this as experiences shared with many in the 'Homes' I visit. Thank you!

Sr.Maria | 16 August 2011  

What is this world that treats our children as small adults and our elders as large children?

God help both our children and our elders...
May we have eyes to see and not look away.

margaret | 16 August 2011  

Well, brother, you have named my fears, your own fears, in this most eloquent poem.

But what if you felt that you could not appear to be innocently wicked, to flirt with the male nurse who attended you? If you were not only old - but gay? And your nearest love felt uncomfortable with holding your hand in case that meant you were treated with even less respect. What then?

Malcolm McPherson | 16 August 2011  

I found this full of wonderful insight, Jim, and can only say "Thankyou."

Gwynith Young | 19 August 2011  

Loved it Jim. Excellent poem!!!!

Martin Fisk | 22 August 2011  

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