Thursday, November 19, 2020


He knew by heart every last minute crack on its surface. He had made maps of the ceiling and gone exploring on them; rivers, islands, and continents. He had made guessing games of it and discovered hidden objects; faces, birds, and fishes. He made mathematical calculations of it and rediscovered his childhood; theorems, angles, and triangles. There was practically nothing else he could do but look at it. He hated the sight of it.
~Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time

Hi y'all, it's Poetry Friday! I am having a hard time writing because my mind keeps skittering around all over the place. It's easier to make things with my hands these days. I did manage to get a poem written (for Bridget's group) in the middle of the night :-) The pandemic-inspired prompt I used was to write about a period of time when you were alone or with just one other person. I thought it was apropos that mine was about a nurse:

by Tabatha Yeatts

After the diagnosis, I couldn't leave,
so I sat in the college infirmary, making phone calls.
I twisted the cord and cried as I called my boyfriend
to say that I couldn't drive down to see him
because I had chicken pox. He laughed-

he'd been worried, but I had a child's illness.
I was glad he couldn't see me like this, covered in ugly red dots
that I'd discovered in the shower that morning.
What's this? I cried to my surprised suitemate,
What is this? Did she laugh? I can't remember,

but I remember the nurse, a nice jailer,
who was my only company for the next week,
a woman who brought my institutional meals,
regular as clockwork, while I stayed in bed and read.
The nurse, who tried to get me to stop scratching

while I bargained...just a little! please! just a scratch!
and she would ask me not to, again. If you do,
you'll have scars
, she said. I lay in those crisp
white sheets, nothing to do but think about the itch,
with only her patient voice between me and future remorse.

Since she won our argument almost entirely,
this lady whose face I can only almost remember,
today I run my finger across my forehead and touch
the sole scar, a reminder of how hard it is to believe
the future will come, but it always does.


TeacherDance has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Linda!


Janice Scully said...

I love this poem about chicken pox and missing a visit to your boyfriend and this strict watchful nurse. It made me smile. It's an interesting memory with a happy ending.

Linda Mitchell said...

You capture a lot in this poem of a childhood illness...the patient nurse's voice the loneliness, the scar of that future none of us could picture that long ago. Beautiful catch of a time and a feeling.
I am with you in skittering attention span. It's tough.

jama said...

I can feel your misery with the itching. Kudos to you for capturing this unforgettable event despite all the distractions.

Linda B said...

Oh, Tabatha, I don't know if this is you or not, but you've made it so, so real. That ending creates the definition of youth, "how hard it is to believe /the future will come, but it always does." My son had nearly this experience, coming downstairs, nearly dressed for a winter dance, saying, Mom, 'what is this?' Well, it was, like in your poem, chickenpox. He was very sick, at 16, & bored, & itching like crazy! Beautiful & memorable poem (I imagine) for many!

Carol Varsalona said...

Tabatha, your stay in the infirmary with all its issues take me back to senior year when I was in the infirmary. When we are young we think we are invincible. You captured the feeling with these words, jailer, almost entirely, how hard it is to believe, always does.

Margaret Simon said...

A brilliant way to tell this story, and now as we know nurses are more and more necessary. "the nice jailer" I imagine was strict but kind. Thanks for sharing.

Bridget Magee said...

Yay! I'm so glad you shared this poem, Tabatha! You "spot on" captured the shared universality of your unique experience. (see what I did there? ;) With 3 nurses in our family, your line, "she won our argument almost entirely" rings especially true.

Mary Lee said...

Oof. That ending.

Here's to the nurses who watch over us with care and love.

laurasalas said...

What a beautiful poem about your kind jailer, "this lady whose face I can only almost remember." And that sole scar. Thoughtful reflection on the impact a person can have, just through kindness and doing a job that matters. I love this.

Karen Edmisten said...

"with only her patient voice between me and future remorse" -- I love that, Tabatha. And how apt your final lines are, too.

Thank you. xo

Ruth said...

Somehow I missed this last week. It's perfect for right now. Thanks, Tabatha.