Primary Caregiver

By: Dudley Stone

You are merely an extension
at first. You make her arms longer,
you help her reach exceed her grasp.
You are her bullhorn, her remote
control, her magnifying glass.

You are her minstrel and her fool.
You keep the beat with prescriptions
you shake like maracas in a manic
invalid bossa nova.

You are her cook, her busboy, maid,
secretary, troubleshooter, jack-of-all-trades.
You are her lawyer and accountant.

You are her calendar and her clock.

You are your patient’s patience:
Push the red cross on the bedrail wait for the nurse push it again wait stick your head into
the hall wait for them to change shifts wait for someone to draw the blood what’s your
name what’s your birthdate wait for the results what’s your name wait for someone who
knows someone who knows wait what’s your wait someone who knows what they mean.

You are your patient’s impatience:
“A doctor is a dog who thinks
he’s God.”

A queen-sized mattress and TV
mark the boundaries of her shrunken
world. You convert her bed
into a closet, library, office, pantry.
When she moves half her things
roll off the edge of her freshly flattened Earth.

You are her sword and shield while she
sleeps through Senate hearings and school
shootings, her accomplice, aider
and abettor when she’s awake.

Wait for the phone tree to shed its leaves wait for the receptionist to put you on hold wait
while she pulls up the file wait can you repeat her name can you repeat her can you spell
that wait so she can write a note for the CNP wait so she can ask the PA who isn’t back
from lunch wait because the doctor’s busy with another patient and will be for some time
wait can I ask you to wait press one for English wait your call is very important to us.

You rouse to the cocked-pistol click o
f the thermostat waking up
the heat. You think treasonous thoughts:
God is a dog who thinks he’s a doctor.

You are only her son, her best
friend, her only remaining friend.
You are her fairy godmother.
You grant wishes. You grow corrupt
and cruel with power. You are her
lock and key, her warden, the raven
perched unwelcome above her door.

She is the drifting smoke that no
longer remembers the flame, the steam
that cannot recall the kettle. She
is the iceberg that floats along,
claiming no connection to the sinking ship.


Dudley Stone’s poetry has recently appeared online in NiftyLit, Spare Parts, and Wilderness House Poetry Review. His writing for the theatre has been seen on stages from California to Connecticut. He has a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Kentucky and studied playwriting at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Mr. Stone lives in Lexington, KY.

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