The Watch

Photo Credit: knowitallnanna via Google Images

She sits at her post today,
as she does everyday—
early morning,
late afternoon—
she’s there.

Trains clouded eyes,
(once blue,)
on the desk where visitors sign in,
gnarled hands folded in her lap,
hands that once gave pleasure
and care.

Beneath etchings
on her weathered face
I conjure youthful beauty,
presume pride taken

each Tuesday
in preparation for stolen moments
with her lover—
the rogue who left her
and their child.

“Gabriel n’est pas encore arrivé”
she sighs at the end of every watch—
the only words she speaks
all day, everyday.

Dust motes dance as fading sun
slices through crisp evening air.
She shuffles down the hall
to the room she shares with Marquerite,
wearing loneliness
like a purple shroud.

Forty years, or more, have passed.
Her son, I wonder—
did he ever visit?

Today at dVerse Poets’ Pub, Stu McPherson invites us to mix up a blend of the melancholy and the beautiful. My thoughts took me back many years, to when I lived and nursed in France, in the Jura.

Much of my career was involved with working with the elderly. This story-poem is a fictionalized account of a woman in a nursing home environment. The reality is that she did, indeed, spend her days waiting for Gabriel to visit. (Funny–I remember his name, not hers). All the rest is fiction. As far as I know, she had no one. Her son, Gabriel, may have been dead, or…who knows?. The lives of older people are ripe for speculation.

I’ve always sought to remember that the aged have histories. Looking with care, one can see the beauty and joy (or sorrow) that may once have been theirs. This poem needs a lot of work, but it’s my offering for today’s Poetics. Critique welcome!

34 thoughts on “The Watch

  1. kolembo says:

    oooo, fabulous! You do melancholy very well – second nature. I like the voice behind this, and then the voice behind the describer – the faded son – the force of life behind the old woman. It’s gorgeous.


  2. souldipper says:

    Oh, Victoria…if only this was not a template. When my mom had her stroke (could no longer speak) and was taken off to another location, I made a huge collage of my mom’s life and interests. “This Is My Mom!” I taped it on the wall by her hospital bed. No one removed it…in fact there were comments in her guest book relating to items on the collage. (I think I’m going to be a horrible patient! Maybe I will bypass that status!)


  3. marit31 says:

    i wish i could even write prose this good.


  4. dani says:

    i can feel her disappointment every evening when Gabriel did not arrive. beautifully written, Victoria!


  5. A very touching depiction. Well done!


  6. dragonkatet says:

    Oh my gosh, I don’t think you need to tweak this one at ALL, Victoria. This made me cry, it was so realistic. Much truth and sadness in this poem…you brought it out for all to see and experience. I think the title is quite apt. Well done!


  7. Oh, this one really touch me. There are all kinds of abandonment, but this one is twinged with the element of waiting to die while she knows life is going on without her. How deeply sad.


  8. Poet Laundry says:

    Awesome. I can see her…love how you have imagined her in all her beauty and sadness. Capital piece Victoria!


  9. markwindham says:

    a sad tale, and one that is probably all to common. Well done Victoria.


  10. vivinfrance says:

    So very sad, so very beautifully observed.


  11. Mama Zen says:

    This is exquisite. I can’t imagine anything sadder.


  12. Ah Victoria, beautifully sad, we’ve all seen her …


  13. kaykuala says:

    It’s sad that in our twilight years when we need love and comfort it is assumed that old people are best left alone. They are just as lonely but they keep their feelings to themselves!



  14. TinoTino says:

    My partner cares for the elderly and not so elderly and she tells me stories similar to these on an almost daily basis. Sometimes, although I have never net the people she speaks of, I still feel I know them. So I can relate so freely to this.
    As ever you capture the serenity and beauty of the piece, even though it’s tinged with sadness.
    Glad I managed to stop by today, sorry its not more frequent these days.


  15. hobgoblin2011 says:

    strong piece Victoria. Really beautifully composed, touching, and definitely a bit sad, the question there at the end, really works to such a large degree, and the language line was a great touch here as well. Thanks


  16. Claudia says:

    oh heck…this brought tears to my eyes.. my mom used to work in a home for elderly people and there were so many waiting for someone that never showed up…for whatever reason..


  17. janehewey says:

    you’ve captured melancholia with an expert eye and vivd words. beautifully done.


  18. i enjoyed this poem – and often wonder what my own gran thought about when she looked out of the window… it also made me think of Tennyson’s poem ‘Mariana’ with the dust motes and the sense of despair and regret…


  19. jcosmonewbery says:

    Sad, beautiful and true. Reminds me of my Grandma in many ways.


  20. Rallentanda says:

    It’s that staring into the past that stays with you. Terribly sad and certainly nothing to look forward to. I hope God is merciful and takes me stone dead on the dance floor or snorkelling!


  21. Susan says:

    “gnarled hands folded in her lap,
    hands that once gave pleasure”
    Grandmother told me that she spent her time in memories, talking to her husband and old friends. I believed her because I had never known her not to be busy.

    Sad Beauty:
    “wearing loneliness
    like a purple shroud.”
    Your character was lucky not to have bitterness as well.”They lied about the Golden years,” Grandmother said.


  22. Mohana says:

    the closing is killing, exceptional write, Victoria.


  23. ManicDdaily says:

    Very sad – I love the train clouded eyes (once blue) . Age very difficult, and in our culture especially where communities/families are so dispersed. Lovely poem. k.


  24. Bodhirose says:

    So sad how many of the elderly are left with just waiting…either for a ghostly someone who has passed on or wishing someone would come to visit and brighten their day. A lonely ending to life… Nothing to critique, Victoria, everything you write is marvelous!


  25. gardenlilie says: this earlier n now back to comment. I’m a nurse too! Lovely. I used to be around old people all the time, loved every minute of it. I wanted all of their love n knowledge n patience n time. They always had time…n you portrayed that beautifully, even if she was waiting for something already gone. I think I follow u on twitter, right 🙂


  26. This is a VERY good poem. I thought it was beautiful, powerful and also very well written at the same time. I like how you captured the moment as well as bringing in how much the past still influences her.


  27. It is hard to think of the forgotten, but so many are. I don’t like to think of anyone endlessly waiting for someone who’ll never come. So sad. But, you’ve written about her so beautifully.


  28. Mary says:

    This rings so true. So often the elderly sit and wait…for the living or for the deceased who never CAN come. It is so hard to realize sometimes that these people were once young and vibrant in their communities. It is so hard to know what to say sometimes when there is so much missing information. A strong poem, Victoria.


  29. I like these lines:

    wearing loneliness
    like a purple shroud.

    Great capture of her sadness and despair…the waiting, always waiting…..Lovely share ~


  30. “The Watch”….. Oh what an appropriate title for this amazingly sad story….. A beautiful snapshot of life Victoria…. I first read this on my email so the photo was not present. Then I came to your page to leave this comment and found it. I can only say – Bravo, incredibly well done. That is exactly where your words held me…..


  31. brian miller says:

    ugh twist in my gut…i hate to see the forgotten…i worked in a retirement home…or volunteered in college…and it was brutal to see them…they were the ones i loved on though….to see them just sitting and staring…love some of the imagery in this victoria…thnks for giving us a bit of the backstory as well…


  32. poemsofhateandhope says:

    Victoria- this is so so good…killer close as well which just tops off the great poetic narrative…and what a sad story…but strangely beautiful to think of all those years sitting and waiting and wondering…..and the to read the backstory and how this is grounded in reality- wow- life is amazing sometimes isn’t it?


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