P.W. Bridgman is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer of poetry and short fiction. His most recent book—a selection of poems entitled A Lamb—was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2018. It was preceded in 2013 by a selection of short fiction entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age (published by Libros Libertad). Bridgman’s poems and stories have appeared in The Moth Magazine, The Glasgow Review of Books, The Honest Ulsterman, The High Window, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Galway Review, Ars Medica, Poetry Salzburg Review and other literary periodicals, e-zines and anthologies. Learn more at www.pwbridgman.ca.
Care Home Apologia
One saw bustling industry
and, everywhere, hierarchy writ large.
One dared not challenge the day nurse in charge.
Her withering stare had turned powerful men to pillars of salt, figuratively.
With a tight bun and spotless shoes, she rode her inferiors like abused horses,
the way an ambitious junior officer might have done in Rommel’s desert forces.
Somewhere in this monument to cleanliness and efficiency
lay one’s wasting mother, cowering beneath her coverlet, afraid
even to have her bed made.
Her chart damned her: “bowels ungovernable.” Less damning: “iron deficiency.”
Robbed of all speech, she could not explain
the yellowing bruise on her thigh. Or her badly swollen ankle. A sprain?
It could have been a sprain. Or an infection.
Or it may have signaled something rather worse.
No one would say. One’s questions had to be directed, always, to the day nurse,
the one in charge. Her mandate had but one purpose: deflection—
of fault or any hint of the same.
“You’re not suggesting…” she’d begin, already manoeuvring to ward off blame.
Well, no, but still I would like to… one started to say.
Then came the interruptions. “Your mother’s a handful, sir.
Few would accept the challenge. She’s in skilled and caring hands here.
You’re surely not doubting that?” Well. One had few cards to play.
She continued: “Still, you’d be wise, just in case, to prepare to take her back.
Her needs could, in time, exceed our ability to cope. It does happen. In fact,
it happened… oh… when was it? Last month. Yes. A sad case, that one.”
She gazed out the window, then at me, adjusting her bun.
One might have brought up the scalp laceration but, well, it had mostly healed.
“Anything else?” No, no. Thank you. And with that, one’s mother’s fate was sealed.
© 2020 P.W. Bridgman