The Care Pathway for the Dying Phase
There’s a phrase to give us pause—
it’s what you’re on and where you’re ending.
I’ve read so in your case notes
while your daughter was attempting
to colour in the silence
with progress of the garden
and accomplishments of children.
An undulating pathway, I’d imagine;
these levers and buttons at the side
of your bed will help you to adjust.
All it lacks is a Reverse.
Just a phase, do they reckon?
Like cutting teeth and teenage passions;
ration books and air shelters;
Sinatra and Swing;
seamed stockings, breast feeding, breast cancer.
A fond glance back and the tips
of your ears blushing, your lips
creasing an embarrassed smile
as you struggle to retain your teeth.
What need of teeth!
A swallowing reflex defunct
as speech and vision.
Only listen to the insistent
drip of metal and plastic;
a thousand unanswered phones
are the music you expire to.
You’re reduced to squeezing hands
or shakes of the head to acknowledge pain.
You hear the nurses arrive
to administer Paracetamol per rectum;
the uniform hiss and swish of curtains;
the brief discussion as to whether
to first do “this one” or “the other”;
you or your fellow-traveller
in the adjacent bed.
I turn away and read the poster
describing how best to wash one’s hands
and the Mission Statement promises,
which conclude by exhorting
everyone to work together
for a cleaner, better future.
by Raymond Miller
Editor’s Note: This poem’s use of enjambment and phrases within compound sentences mirrors the difficult, fractured journey so many of us face at the end of life.