The Truth About Nurses
by Sally Flint
It's true – when someone dies
on the ward a nurse lays
the body out, straightens the fingers,
removes the saline drip and wipes away
the spurt of blood. She repacks wounds,
replaces teeth, and sets the jaw.
After washing the waxen skin,
if there's no next of kin, that nurse
may place on the forehead a kiss.
It's sometimes true, if time allows,
the nurse is sent to observe
a child being born, and she will find
some comfort in seeing oxygen deliver
colour into the veins of tiny arms, flailing,
like wings. It's true, some nurses finish
their shift, crouch silent in a corner
of the changing room, then rush
home to hug their own children.
It's also true nurses hold
babies who never draw breath.
Sally Flint lectures in creative writing and co-edits Riptide Journal at the University of Exeter, and is a tutor with The Poetry School.