I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

22 April 2012

Taking the Obs

Around his neck, under his pyjama top,
a white plastic rectangle hangs from tapes.
It has a dial with lights and symbols
which the nurses can decode. ‘We think
it might be your ticker causing the falls.’

They take his blood sugar, more often
I suspect, than the twice a day
I’ve been doing at home. And they take
blood pressure, temperature, pulse, all that.
They check his water, intake and output,
and whether his bowels have opened today.

I am a visitor now. I must relinquish him
into other care than mine. I am training myself
not to ask what his blood sugar is this time,
nor at what hour they gave his insulin dose.
‘He’s in good hands,’ the nurses reassure. 
‘You’ve done a wonderful job,’ says the doctor. 
‘It’s enough! Time to let us look after him now.’

Only last week, when I started a cold,
he was the one looking after me,
wrapping his warm arms around me,
stroking my hair, soothing me off to sleep. 
I examine, now, as he lies in his hospital bed,
the smile in his eyes as we share a joke,
the interest in his voice as he asks the nurses,
‘Where did you grow up? Where did you train?’

I observe the way his hair curls over his ear.
I watch his hand take hold of mine. I perceive
the gentleness of his touch, the warmth 
of his loving clasp. I monitor not the beat 
but the inclination of his heart, its directions;
I try to gauge his happiness levels, his peace.
This has been my chief occupation for years.
I can’t stop noticing and caring, just because
he’s now in a hospital, being clinically observed.

April PAD Challenge #21: Under the microscope
Also submitted for dVerse Poetics: Duty Calls


  1. Duty changes sometime, doesn't it, Rosemary? The caregiver becomes the one cared for. I know it is sometimes hard to relinquish the caregiving to another, but I think it is in your (and his) best interest. I hope tomorrow will be the day he returns home.

  2. oy...i hope that he is ok...and i def understand this one, hard to call it an obligation because that sounds so sterile to the care i read in your words...and right after they were just caring for you as well...i felt that too...again i hope he is well...

  3. Oh wow, I love this: "I am training myself not to ask" ... so heavy with emotion. And your occupation: "I try to gauge his happiness levels." Replacing the monitoring of his care to the monitoring of his mood. "Being clinically observed" is a great ending; works perfectly with the "under a microscope" theme.

    This is beautiful.

  4. Oh, I do hope everything will be okay as soon as possible. It's so difficult to quit worrying that he is in safe hands because, with the best will in the world, (most of them are Angels but) they don't love the ones we love in the ways we do. Their care is always so busy and always occupied with needing to do a million and one things. I hope he is home with you again soon.

  5. i had to take care of my dying grandma and then one day, she couldn't get up to go to the bathroom, and i said that's it, and then she went to a home. i always felt guilty. i was 19.

    duty to challenge

    1. That was a very heavy burden for a 19-year-old!

  6. This is so sadly beautiful. I cannot imagine the feelings one would experience as they watched the one they love pass from their care to that of the physician. Awesome write!

  7. Oh, Rosemary--this is just wonderful. Really so lovely - the warmth of the hand, the curl of hair over the ear--it is immediately one of my favorites of yours, and such a lovely lovely poem. You know, my Dad recently died and I was quite involved in his care--I hate to say that I found it very difficult (with some reason) to trust the hospital, but my Dad was not able to speak for himself at that point very well, so slept there all the time etc.

    Your situation, thankfully, sounds much much better. Wonderful poem and I hope all works out terrifically. Take care. K.

  8. This is so very touching and real. I feel the fear in your words and know it's difficult to see someone you love so sick. I hope things get better soon.

  9. I experienced this when I had to take care of my parents. It's so sad to see them weak and in ill health. I hope he will get better soon ~

  10. oh and you don't have to stop caring..as you care in a much deeper way...way beyond what the nurses and doctors do...as you care for the directions of his heart...i much like the tight and intimate band that i can feel in your write here...hope he's better soon rosemary

  11. Very moving because so beautifully and sincerely portrayed. Can't say I loved it exactly - a bit too near to home, so many memories, but I relate to it and find it helpful.

    1. Dave, I am touched and glad that you find this helpful.

  12. Having very recently lived through this for myself,it is salutary for me to read this from the perspective of the carer rather than the cared for. Your sensitivity does you great credit, and I hope you will soon be back in your preferred role.

  13. More than just a duty, and obligation I would think, Rosemary! The duties are reversed in many ways and many forms in time. We are forever reminded that while we are ok we may not at other times. Great write!


  14. Beautifully written, vividly drawn. You make my heart ache, and yet also rejoice, for the kind of intimacy that can bring this sort of obligation into fruit as love in its purest form.

  15. What a powerful write this is. You've managed to communicate not only that sense of well-being that comes from fulfilling one's obligation towards another but so much more, an awareness of such love and compassion that simply shreds all mortal bounds and self-imposd boundaries of what love should or should not be. Excellent poe, superbly crafted and conveyed.

  16. Thank you all very much for your interest and kind comments. I always find that poetry is a great blessing at times lkie this - both writing my own and reading other people's.

  17. He sounds absolutely lovely. :-)

    julie e