for June and Bronwyne, Aged care home-help
None. But these come, grounded angels,
more useful than the litany of winged
messengers each religion offers.
Always calm, always giving, they wear violet.
Invisible among us, I didn’t know them
till exhausted, I cried out for help,
buckling under this burden, this loved parent,
a man, one hundred years of age.
Wings of dragonfly gossamer, frets
of hidden steel, engined by light
as angels are, their inner pulse is compassion,
humour the fluid in their veins.
Gifts are lodged in them we cannot see
revealed slowly over time.
When they come, they rewind his memories
with word games, cards, old albums.
Magic conjurors, they help him
shuffle his stories into newness,
those I have heard a thousand times.
They coax him, where I command,
laugh easily while my smile feels set.
Each muscle in me aches, tendons tighten.
Hands over-used, fingers click a painful rebellion.
I am heart-tired, bone-tired, too weary even to weep.
They tell me everything, all this, is normality.
They teach me how to clear away risk,
equip bedroom, bathroom, to watch
his body, to glove myself into forbearance,
needed to clean up mishaps, how to bandage.
They are fearless of his old skin,
‘leaking legs’, limbs so full of fluid his cells
weep, as if those fleshy blocks are melting.
Their glance is gentle on us.
I feed on their kindness, the babe in caring I am.
I want to be the good daughter
they tell me I am. I see him slipping.
Sadness swells in me, a reservoir
dammed below the sills of my eyes.
Sometimes when they come,
they make me go and walk the beach.
I collect the broken bones of shells,
twisted fluted spines, white and lovely
in their fleshlessness, glass fragments rolled
a million times smooth, translucent, pearly, bottle-green.
I place them on my window-ledge with fan-shells
the colour of sunset, an empty shark egg. This attention
to amassing the shattered, the crushed on the sands,
is respite from the loss in my father’s draining life.