Saturday 22 November 2014


Her socks are bright green with white criss crosses
stitched into the soles.
She can't breathe very well, a second
of silence is all her lungs afford her 
before the grunt, the hack, the open mouthed
insistent call to the nothingness that is listening;

her gown is pink, but calls to mind
no cotton candy, blush of youth, or
any of the plush arrays of nail polish
displayed in every magazine or shop
she may never visit again.

Her name is Dorothy. And I know
I will never see her again. She belongs 
only to the blue walls, blue curtains,
beeping bleeping clocked closed
world of the ward. But when she looks across at me,
we have always been here, together. 

© Shaista Tayabali, 2014

On the ward yesterday, after all the blood letting, and as the chemo/mabtherapy dripped into me, I listened to Dorothy trying to breathe beside me. Attached as I was, exhausted as I was, I could only wait out the hours. Past 10pm when my cannula was removed and I was free, I packed up my books, magazine, iPad, travelling life, and crossed the two feet of space that separated my life from Dorothy's. She is 90, and I suppose, wandering in her mind because she is wondering what on earth she is doing in that hospital bed, severed from her real life. I held on to her hand for a while as she talked. I caught only phrases. Why were they bothering her with their insistence that she should be walking? She was tired! Did I know that Bill had died? Did I know that Ann was getting married again? At 50! I squeezed her hand. And then bid her farewell. I say I will never meet Dorothy again because I have never met any of the older generation of patients that have marked my time in hospital over the years. The younger ones, on regular infusions like me, I do meet and meet again. But when I write Dorothy into a poem, it is so that she will live on, here with me, and now with you. 


Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

Shai, you prophetess. I often think to myself, especially around 9:30 am on a Sunday, that i should go to church or temple or meeting. It is hard to wean 5 generations of quaker missionary-dom out of your system. I think should GO or DO something to remind myself where I truly fit in the world. To be reminded of the divine in me, in others.

But instead I visit Shaista, a poem from her more relevant than a psalm, a glimpse of her suffering, diving, how she soothes and comforts others and inspires us to do the same is a holy gift.

Better than church.

Unknown said...

You've done something truly lovely for Dorothy. She will live on. Frank

Sherry Blue Sky said...

And what lives on, in me, is that compassionate heart of yours, Shaista, that still has so much to offer others, while going through a great deal yourself. I can see Dorothy through your words, and hope soon she soars right through those walls into the most spectacular landscape.

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