January 5, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

eberhard grossgasteiger photo



Penn Kemp




Nursing Her Home



Old women with soft palms folded in

laps unused to lavender stillness wait,

fingering the pseudo silk of a blouse

frayed beyond repair. Wait for ever

to pick them up on eternity’s date.


Wait for the next meal the orderly wheels

you meanwhile round to table. Wait to

greet a nurse in whose face you recognize

a cousin dead half a century revived for

lunch. Wait for nursing to commence.


Wait for home to return. The one promised,

the old one half remembered, half dreamed:

a flushed garden of poppies, peonies, lupin

and cardinals along flashing scarlet spectrum

in lush, flagrant harmonics of house wren.


Pink scalp shines through white wisps as if

sun-touched. What, who is pulling your hair?

Pulling your mind beyond the present, back

forward or out of the brain cave into the new

light that blinds your blinking rheumy eye.


The photo on your door is there to remind staff

you once were a person, a bright war bride,

even though name tags are misplaced and you

wear someone else’s worn slippers. You, once

so fastidious, don’t notice now, don’t care.


The elevator only descends from this locked

ward. Windows allow in light but not air.

Here they consider you safe, your needs met.

For the first time ever, you own time, despite

rigid routine. Wander free where you can.


Wait in the hall for the upcoming call. Wait

in your patient wheelchair for the next round.

Wait while the cancer that hollowed your bone cage

grips you one last time. The handshake of a friend

at last offers you ease, a reprieve now, an end.






Penn Kemp

Penn Kemp is an activist Canadian poet, playwright and editor.  Her latest works are two plays celebrating local hero and explorer, Teresa Harris, produced in 2017 and published by Playwrights Guild of Canada. Recent books include Barbaric Cultural Practice (quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/) and two anthologies edited, Women and Multimedia and Performing Women (http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/livingarchives/). See www.pennkemp.weebly.com.

Editor review

1 Comment

  1. Lynne Zotalis January 05, at 15:50

    Excellent poem. This is such an exigent topic as baby boomers age, having buried their parents or are now taking care of them and dealing with end life issues. This system of shoving the aged around like cattle needs to change instead offering death with dignity, the right to choose our exit.


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