The Nurse's Job

by Veneta Masson

"...with Mom so sick and everyone asking
where's her sister, the nurse..."

The nurse's job is to make it better
whatever it is
(even a child knows this)
to smooth the forest of furrowed brows
to explain pathologies and pain
to say it will be all right
when it will
and when it won't
to relieve, to be there, to stay.

I have failed at my job.
Even a child knows this.
I offer sporadic intensive care
long-distance counsel
and two thousand miles of excuses.
My absence must smack of
malpractice.

And yet, in the end
there is sanctuary at St. Rose.
As two nurses wedge
between me and her bed
I know I can't distance myself again.
I cling to the rails
confess that I, too, am a nurse.

You're not a nurse here,
you're her sister

one says, swaddling me
tight in her arms.
I believe she has loved a sister.
I believe that she has known shame.

She does not say
it will be all right
but in her presence
I give in to grief
I begin to let go.
This nurse is doing her job.

© 2006 by Veneta Masson