Poetically Speaking: The Care by Les Murray

As previous readers will know, I am a complete novice when it comes to poetry. However I am gradually learning to enjoy reading poetry and will quite often find myself flicking through poetry compilations I own or indeed flicking through the internet to find poems whose words and sounds excite me.

It was this internet flicking that led me to Poetry Postcards.

As part of the Commonwealth Games Celebrations, BBC Radio Scotland set itself the task of collecting a poem from each of the competing 71 countries. The result of which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 3rd August

Having already listened to a few of the poems being recited via radio i-player (one of my favourite inventions) I am really looking forward to tuning in for the full length programme.

Australian outback

Australian Outback Image via photo bucket

In the mean time, as part of my fortnightly feature ‘Poetically Speaking’ I wanted to include one of the poems from the commonwealth. The Care is by Les Murray from Australia. It’s a very touching poem, written from his own experience as a carer.    This is a lovely poem to read but even better when listened to .  Hearing Les recite the poem in his gravelly Australian voice and tell the story that goes with it gives it life and emotion .  As a nurse of many years this struck a particular chord with me.

The Care

Carers are fifteen years younger
than you. They stop in for your boy,
they shower your mother not looking,
 they unpeg and bring in the laundry.

Carers have learned the bad-smelling
jobs, and soak them as they chat.
Brown pivot stains shame a veteran – –
Old age is eventually a cat

which starts on the brain of its prey
so the words come with a delay
and finally hardly at all.
Children, years younger again

always knew the nuance of the words,
the scratchy pants, and the Latin.
Grown ups twist as the modern
Approaches down gravel, down the flight-plan,

the airy and the arch,
the judgemental in starch
ampoule-filled as their hatches open.
More friends of mine now face that one

So glory to Nurse Cavell, to Nurse Kenny,
Doctor Flynn, and the sans-frontiersmen:
I brace for my turn of white cotton
and my headstone POET SO FAR then.

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