The diagnosis of brother’s rare cancer
sparks her into a frenzy of research
every cell bent on sleuthing
knowing, understanding the enemy.

The answering machine and no call back
when we ring the farm likely means
more medical trips

(later photos of him
in radioactive quarantine
show her, like a prison wife
on the other side of the window)

or a vacation to the east coast
or a weekend at a folk festival
or in the mountains skiing.

She is behind this compression
of a premature retirement
into the months, weeks, days…

all the while keeping track of his meds
his appointments, his symptoms
his pains, being a pill herself
when the doctors aren’t forthcoming.

We come to visit
when things have progressed suddenly
to a painful stay in palliative care.

She directs the traffic
to and from his room
and when everyone else is seated

and she has given him ice chips
adjusted his nasal tube
and tidied his bedside tray

jumps up to sit beside him
on the hospital bed
but like a bird
soon flits away again

though sometimes her bird-bright
blue eyes are rimmed with red
and swim in teary
beds of their own.

© 2010 by Violet Nesdoly


I wrote this poem in response to the Poets Online “caring” prompt late last year.
Last Saturday (January 29/11), we attended the memorial service of the brother in the poem. He soldiered on for six more months after the doc, at the end of July, gave him only two weeks to live. It turns out the caring talked about in the poem was only the first half of the book. The “she” was beside him every inch of the way and this poem should be many stanzas longer.
A slightly different version of “Caregiver” was published at Poets Online (link above).

2 thoughts on “Caregiver”

  1. Hello Violet,
    I think I mistakenly put the comment I intended for this post (of the brother in in palliative care), on the page about the ladies retreat.

    Here it is:
    “Pensive and poignant, Violet.
    These lines seem to reflect both pain and peace, and indicate that they can and do cooexist in loving, trusting hearts.”


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