Rosemary Purse-Robinson

NURSES

Singapore 1969 and
the need to write bites
Taipusam Child Penitents
The Tampines Children’s Home
and Vietnam force my hand

The Nelson Mail will pay my dues
my first piece –
“Local Boys Made Good
And Wives Muck In”
will relieve me of the alternative:

having to return soon
to those frail wailing
creatures of some God
forsaken by family and state
lately lived in chicken coops

their food thrown as to beasts
till cared for by new believers
so obey the itch, stitching
words to cover the wounds
anger – and guilt for courage

slow in the veins of one
more used to shepherding
three, thought perfect
blonde children, whom Asians
want to touch for luck

– it is too soon, since

the urge to strangle
a nurse who gave my father
– drowning in his body fluids
“brandy to stimulate his heart”
I knew then that it takes

a rare and righteous fortitude
to work with hopeless cases.