The Nurse
(for Thelma)

She came a stranger to this once-peculiar
Place. Four seasons.  Undergrounds.
Fish-and-chips. Haggis. Royal ghosts
A place whose poor are not the poorest
Back home
Her father raised the money
To grow  wings on her feet
For that better life than he ever had

But some nights, listening  to cries
Uttered in a mix of  distress and English
She would weep in her mothertongue
The walls the  audience
Of her ineffable solitude
Of her yen for home
Despite the blight of want there
Her father would say over the phone,
It will pass. Stay put
You will find there the bed of roses
I prepared you for
It will be home

He was right
The strangeness of the place
Transformed it into  home
After  she responded to the buzzer
One  thousand  times
Chronic cases
Terminal cases
She was needed here
Relevance  made a place a home
As much as  language, as much as roots

It became joy to  embrace humanity’s pain
Helping it
Fend off  the sinister man with the scythe
Or bravely confront and trounce  him
Or listen to the oft-talked about gentle  voice
Urging a soul to return to its body
As it is about to reach a dark tunnel’s end
Her heart had shed tears
As her hands pulled the zipper over lifeless faces
Imagining how crestfallen
Loved ones must be more than she was
Just yesterday before the terrible news came
She injected  morphine  into unfledged veins
Praying that  a premature journey to the other side
Would  be like the dance of an autumn leaf
To the gale, graceful  as it falls to the ground
Becoming dust one day
She had lost sleep for over a hundred patients
And kept their  names
From being carved on gravestones

Some of them still stay in touch

London became  home despite
Late night hours. Arrogant doctors’ moods
Harsh winter morning shifts. Graveyard shifts

Her father had always been proud of her
Over the phone, he would say
You have a heart several times
Bigger than  the average
Your  hands warmer than normal

At Heathrow Airport, she anxiously awaits
Her flight back home to the Philippines
To bury her father. Pneumonia. Lung cancer
Complications.  She never wiped his brows
Furrowed by pain. He never saw his daughter’s
Bedside manner, never felt the  hands
With a heart  several times  more huge
Than the average size he was so proud of

She was his daughter, everyone else’s


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