Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Organ Player's Coming

Now then!
His eyes, blank as buttons, fix randomly
on her breasts wrapped tight in white plastic.
There are no formal introductions
as she pokes her spoon into his mouth.
He gags, splutters, splattering her pinny
with glottal and surd.
His words are jammed, trapped in the past,
his whole lexicon shot to pieces
the day his aneurysm popped.
Hello! Is there anyone at home?
Images, brittle as old film, jump and flicker
inside his nobbled brain. For a moment
he is sitting by the kitchen table,
his mother’s fingers dancing in flour,
her apple-bright face warm as an oven.
He reaches out … but she has gone,
dissolved in a cluster of dud impulses
that fizzle in his frontal lobe.
Sleep will come soon,
then muster in the day room.
The organ player’s coming this afternoon.


  1. Beautiful lyrical language, I love this :)

  2. Thank you Gracetalking ... so pleased you connected to my poem :)

  3. WOW this is profound....there is darkness....beautiful....Thank you..As always..XOXOXO

  4. Thanks Bongo ... it is a poem about an incredibly sad situation that, unfortunately, I encountered on a number of occasions when I worked as a community psychiatric nurse.

  5. I'm sure you have many many stories to share....being on the other end..I feel this...As always..XOXOXO

  6. As is usual, your beautiful and honest language moves me beyond words. I always seem able to connect vividly with your characters, as in this case with the poor soul in the nursing home. You have made me ponder why it must come to this...it's so sad. A thought provoking poem and a reminder to live life to the fullest whilst we still can. Thanks Peter

  7. I will never know how you do that. It's as if language is some wild animal, and you come riding in on a grand steed whirling a lasso over your head with which to tame it. I'm not sure that made sense. The point is your mastery over language never ceases to amaze. Yes it is a terribly sad poem, but you bring such beauty to the sadness, and that is one of the gifts that makes you, you.

  8. Hi Louise ~ thank you ever so much for your lovely comments. Yes, the inevitable paradox of any poem that is conceived and created from sadness. And yet, like you, one of the realizations that I drew from the experience of creating the poem was that we should make the most of 'life' whilst we are capable of living it. As for the man's predicament, I cannot see the answer. It is so incredibly depressing that there will always be people who need caring for in 'institutions' ... & people working in those institutions who do not value, respect & love the residents anywhere near as much as they should.

  9. Hi Heidi ~ thank you, too, for such wonderful comments. Your metaphors are absolutely amazing. I think having come across that situation first hand on a number of occasions probably gave me an advantage when writing the poem. The feelings generated on those occasions are still very easily accessed - and I'm sure the passion generated by those feelings enabled me to tie the words together better than I ever could have if I had not witnessed it all first hand.

  10. Extraordinary poem Peter. I got a sense from your poem of what it was like outside his head and inside his head ... almost like the same event appear completely different, whether viewed from outside in, or from inside out.

  11. This is a beautiful and very recognizable poem. The described situation resembles those of older people as my late father-in-law, sitting in a special secured old people's home. He remembered the times he was imprisoned as a Polish intellectual by the Russians in World War II. When my wife took him out for a walk, he thought she had impressive influence on the occupiers because she had the might to take him into freedom. He never could understand his daughter had such powers and he admired her for that!

  12. Hi Quirina. Thank you so much for your positive comments. I think you're right ... what he was seeing 'out there' was completely different from the world inside his head - the latter being a huge muddle of mis-interpretations & fleeting memories triggered by external stimuli. But however we explain it or interpret his situation, the sadness of his plight remains.

  13. Hi Edjo. Thank you, too, for your lovely comments. I have witnessed so many similar scenarios, where the person's past life events have caused him or her to misinterpret a situation, as if he or she were still in that situation. Sometimes, such misinterpretations can cause a sense of wonder in the person ... but, unfortunately, it can easily go the other way too. Professional carers need to be able to recognise such situations & tap into them in a positive way if possible. Alternatively, if the person is distressed by their misinterpretations, they need to be guided to a better place, either by reinforcing the here-&-now or, if that is not possible, distraction & guidance towards a more positive experience. Sadly, in my experience, many professional carers have neither the skills nor the inclination to do this.

  14. Hello Peter,

    Beautiful poem. It made me think of young relative of mine. He recently had an aneurysm burst, & when I look at him I often wonder about what goes on behind his now expressionless face.

    Fabulous food for thought, and wonderful imagery.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Sammy Sutton

  15. Hi Sammy - thank you so much for your lovely comments. Such an absolute tragedy, isn't it, when 'life' is obliterated in an instant & a blankness replaces a multitude of facial expressions. But even more so when the person is dis-placed in an unfamiliar environment with 'carers' who are lacking in compassion.

  16. There is a haunting beauty in this very sad poem. And I think it is the loss, the lack of comprehension on the part of the old nobbled brain that makes for the magic, the wonder of it for the poor man. Poor man? Who knows? Thank you for sharing this, painful as it is. Beautiful work. :))

  17. Thank you for your lovely, heartfelt comments Jacquie ~ yes, who knows? And how sad that someone who has clearly lost his faculties has to experience additional losses: the loss of his home, his family perhaps ... & his dignity.

  18. Oh, well done. This one brings tears to my eyes. Love the phrase, "fingers dancing in flower." And the interplay between what's happening in his thoughts vs. his biochemistry.

    1. Thank you so much for reading & for your lovely comments, Mary ~ very much appreciated.