Poem Hunter
Ode To Alice
JKR (September 8,1952 / Flint, Michigan)

Ode To Alice

T’was a day in late August of 2005
When this woman became my client.
Her caseworker would strive
To see that we’d jive
Referring to her as “defiant.”

“You’ve got a challenge, ” she said with a smirk,
“cause this woman’s a piece of work! ”
For others had tried,
Put frustrations aside
To help her in spite of her quirks.

“I’ll warn you right now, ” she went on to say
that “she’ll talk, but not listen to you…”
“And she, as a client –
Will be non-compliant –
So I’m sending a nurse whose brand new (you) ”

See, Alice who’d just turned eighty,
Was a recluse for most of her years.
Painful life as a child,
Then later grew wild
Till they locked her up tight with her fears.

But those walls that would keep her,
Housed her flesh and her bones…
Could not kill her spirit,
Most others would fear it,
But dear Alice, her soul she did own.

Paranoid Schizophrenic, the label they gave
Would precede her to all she did meet.
A genius I.Q.,
Brighter than me and you,
Her life rhythm remained upbeat.

She’d befriended her demons
Who’d plotted to scare
Her back into hiding
Keep life unexciting,
But she challenged a ‘Truth or Dare’.

Growing up in Detroit
She escaped when she could
For dark was the mood
With never enough food
And love – wasn’t a word understood.

Though suicide had taken
Her dad and her brother…
And for them, t’was too late
But she’d sealed her own fate
Finding parts of her yet to discover.

Self-taught and reading by three,
She wasn’t allowed in school.
So, from books loaned by dad,
That was all that she had,
She’d learn to be nobody’s fool.

Her brain, like a sponge
Soaked in volumes of knowledge.
She’d read and she’d write,
Never give up her fight,
And never step foot in a college.

A worker for peace
She had marched against war.
Writing many a letter
To make things get better,
Her heart-felt words she did pour.

Quite a loner she was
Not a soul she would wed
Nor a child did she bear,
Though for many she would care.
She chose to be single instead.

I believe I was chosen
To be her special nurse.
For the Universe will tend
To the souls that can mend
From any imaginable curse.

Once a week was my visit
Placed her pills in a box.
Three doses a day
Doctor’s orders would say,
But this was the true paradox…

For Alice was bright,
She could medicate herself.
But her visiting physician
Took the position
Her meds should be kept on the shelf.

And then let the nurse
Manage all of her doses.
Not trust her to make
The decision to take
Medications for psychic neurosis.

So that’s about where
I came into the picture.
Every week for an hour,
I watch this bud flower
And I became a permanent fixture.

An old harmonica she does play,
Long ago she had found.
And I think I should mention
It helps ease my tension
With her serenade of sound.

What is really amazing,
I just have to say
‘Tis true what I’m quoting,
And very worth noting
She wears oxygen night and day.

It really is something
To see such a sight
For her, breathing is rough,
But Alice is tough,
And she plays with all of her might.

If you were not looking,
You’d swear it’s Bob Dylan,
Not an eighty-year client,
Whose soul won’t be silent,
‘Cause your ears she’s bound to be fillin’.

And speaking of fillin’
She can talk a blue streak.
From a brain that’s so full,
All the facts she can pull,
And fill my head week after week.

A poet by nature,
Many stories she can tell
Eight decades of life,
How she dealt with her strife
If she published, I’m sure it would sell.

But she doesn’t need the money,
Doesn’t care about the cash.
She’s happy right there,
In her cozy little lair,
Watching old episodes of M*A*S*H*.

I feel I should mention
The T.V. she views.
When she says, “Hey, Janet,
Look at Animal Planet”,
I know she’s not watching the news.

Since Alice loves pets
I’ve visited with mine.
There’s never a crisis
If I bring my dog, Isis
The two of them get along fine!

And just lately my Alice
Is reading her jokes.
With humor she’s smitten
For the jokes she has written
Would seriously entertain most folks.

Alice is truly
An inspiration to me.
She’s sweet and she’s funny
Her disposition so sunny,
When I’m eighty, hope that’s how I’ll be.

I could tell you much more,
But I’ll give it a rest.
Thirty verses should do it.
Any more just might slew it,
Bottom line: Alice is the BEST!

(This is a true account of a client I visited once a week as her visiting nurse up until about a year ago when she fell and broke her hip and went to live in a nursing home. She was every bit and more of what I've written about her - a real hoot! But above all, a teacher of life, who made my job much more interesting than I could have ever imagined. How blessed I was to know her! I received news from her nephew that Alice took her last breath on December 28,2008. She was only 83.)

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Maya Angelou

Caged Bird

Comments (1)

A terrific ode! Some great rhymes and perfectly postive and upbeat story. Sounds like you popped into the rabbit hole and found an Alice in Wonderland! - chuck