Nurse, Teddington Hospital

They taught her to cure, not by the cradled arm,
but by sharpness of heart in face of illness;
she learned the cheerful delicate trade of orders,
moving from bed to bed on the dull parquet,
bearing the attributes of the absolute
on the shoe of her poised leg.

Yet someone had given her glen talk,
taught her to enclose a sweetness in the husk of words;
to be an artiste before stroke-seared old men
until they felt within their map of bones
the keen warmth of a summer to come,
and knew for a chalice the small glass in their hands.

by Eric Ratcliffe

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