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JENNINGS, Elizabeth


Night Sister

How is it possible not to grow hard,

To build a shell around yourself when you

Have to watch so much pain, and hear it too?

Many you see are puzzled, wounded; few

Are cheerful long. How can you not be scarred?


To view a birth or death seems natural,

But these locked doors, these sudden shouts and tears

Graze all the peaceful skies. A world of fears

Like the ghost-haunting of the owl appears.

And yet you love that stillness and that call.


You have a memory for everyone;

None is anonymous and so you cure

What few with such compassion could endure.

I never met a calling quite so pure.

My fears are silenced by the things you’ve done.


We have grown cynical and often miss

The perfect thing. Embarrassment also

Convinces us we cannot dare to show

Our sickness. But you listen and we know

That you can meet us in our own distress.