|Genre||Poem (2 pp.)|
|Keywords||AIDS, Caregivers, Cross-Cultural Issues, Empathy, Poverty, Suffering|
|Summary||The speaker addresses her friend, a caregiver (it’s not clear what her or his status is, possibly a volunteer) in an infectious disease clinic, noting how the friend empathizes with and carries the words of the patients within her- or himself.|
This poem of eleven couplets looks at the relationship of a caregiver with her or his patients, most of whom are poor. The speaker notes that this caregiver "know[s] their faces" and says, "You tell me a first name, /. . . temperament and age, even a T-cell / count, if I ask, which will probably be less / . . . than it was." The patients ask for vitamins, condoms.
One woman in the clinic bounces her baby on her knee, "starts, almost imperceptibly, to keen /. . . a lullaby, or is it a lament? / . . . As your heart beats, you rock her, in a mental / . . . mutual embrace (you’ve hugged her) which allows / . . . you to breathe with her, pause with her, swallow / . . . the hard words." The speaker ends the poem with this beautiful image, adding that "She’s with you when you come downtown / later. You could keep it to yourself. You won’t.
The poem looks at empathy and would be a good beginning place for a discussion on so-called objectivity in doctor- or caregiver-patient relations and the possible costs, not only of empathy, but of distance as well.
|Source||Squares and Courtyards: Poems|
|Publisher||W. W. Norton|
|Place Published||New York|
|Annotated by||Stanford, Ann Folwell|
|Date of Entry||04/13/01|