Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hospice and Nursing Home Poem: Volunteer-Patient African American History

My book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes concludes each chapter with an original poem. I was inspired to write this poem while watching my hospice patient sleep. I thought about our common history that bridged our communication beyond her dementia and enhanced my respect for all she represented.

Deeper Than Words

The outside world arrives
wearing my willing face.
Toothless, your smile widens
like a baby’s hungry for attention.
Almost ninety-eight years old,
your inner candle still glows.

A hospice volunteer, I lean closer,
talk into your listening left ear,
“Today is Sunday, Miss Loretta.”
My news drifts away like smoke.
You stare at me through dying coals.
Whatever I ask, you whisper, “Yes.”

I stroke your age-softened arms
while your hazed mind masters sleep.
Watching you, I dream generations
of women, black and strong, each one
a book of sustaining stories
about joy, pain, courage, survival.

Within your warm brown frame,
spirits from our common history linger.
Aides say you have dementia,
that you don’t know a word I say.
Our language goes deeper than words.
We speak to each other’s souls.

© Frances Shani Parker

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many online and offline booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores.

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely, thoughtful poem. I thank you for sharing it with us.