PAD 2017 – Day 21

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt asked poets to pick an object and use that as the title of the poem. The NaPoWriMo prompt asked for recollections of things overheard, a snippet of speech or a phrase remembered from childhood. While I didn’t come up with one specific saying, I was reminded of all the things I overheard when I visited my Dad while he recovered in hospital last summer.


Privacy Curtain


They call it that,

but it offers none. Worse,

an illusion that what happens

behind it, what’s said,

has no will to wander

through the gap.


Third day at the hospital, watching Dad sleep.

I make guesses about the other three patients in

this room by the sound of the people who visit them.

Learn by what’s said and what isn’t.

Overhear the doctors, who rarely lower their volume,

even for the worst news.


I can see feet under the curtains, swollen and bare

or cloaked in blue paper slippers, hospital issue.

So slippery that even a younger woman mimics

the mumble step of an old man on old legs.


How often do they wash these curtains?

When someone goes, before someone comes,

I’ve seen the efficient mop of floors, swabbed mattress,

every knob and rail on the bed wiped clean.

But the curtains left untouched. Germs lurking,

a bit like me, but more at home.


A pregnant nurse peeks through Dad’s curtain,

belly first, then smile, nodding to me as she

attends to him while he sleeps.  Checks the IV line,

his catheter bag, the incision on his stomach,

the one he proudly showed me.

Like he needed a witness

to his own survival.


He’s so still now, really resting. Reprieve

from the fitful tossing, twitching of yesterday.

That moment when his eyes fluttered open,

and neither of us recognized each other.

I started to sing a lullaby then,

something Mom used to sing to me.

Didn’t even care who might be on the other side

of the curtain, listening to each exposed note.


Today’s Alberta poet is Shawna Lemay from Edmonton. I have had the pleasure of reading several (though not all) of Ms. Lemay’s books, and look forward to her frequent blog postings, which always seem to contain such wisdom, and inspire a sense of serenity. Her poems often evoke the same feelings, though there is humour, and truth and fragility in them too. One of my favourites is “Skinned“,  from the book Blue Feast.


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