That year we danced to green bleeps on screen.
My son had come early, just the 1kg of him,
all big head, bulging eyes and blue veins.
On the ward I met Grace. A Jamaican senior nurse
who sang pop songs on her shift, like they were hymns.
“Your son feisty. Y’see him just ah pull off the breathing mask.”
People spoke of her in half tones down these carbolic halls.
Even the doctors gave way to her, when it comes
to putting a line into my son’s nylon thread of a vein.
She’d warn junior doctors with trembling hands: “Me only letting you try twice.”
On her night shift she pulls my son’s incubator into her room,
no matter the tangled confusion of wires and machine.
When the consultant told my wife and I on morning rounds
that he’s not sure my son will live, and if he lives he might never leave the hospital,
she pulled us quickly aside: “Him have no right to say that—just raw so.”
Another consultant tells the nurses to stop feeding a baby, who will soon die,
and she commands her loyal nurses to feed him. “No baby must dead
wid a hungry belly.” And she’d sit in the dark, rocking that well-fed baby,
held to her bosom, slowly humming the melody of “Happy” by Pharrell.
And I think, if by some chance, I’m not here and my son’s life should flicker,
then Grace, she should be the one.
“Grace” from “A Portable Paradise” (Peepal Tree Press, 2019) © Roger Robinson, reproduced by permission of Peepal Tree Press
This poem is taken from the May/June 2020 issue of Standpoint. To subscribe to the print and digital editions, including a full digital archive, click here.