Thursday, February 2, 2012

Assessing a life

Nursing assessment: 
female, " Ms. Doe"
caucasian, (white... with blue ink tatoos).

Age, unknown
over 50 under 80
(1-9-6-0 on her lifeline palm!)

Breaths 20, shallow, uneven
rise on her chest (with names:
"Jules Graham Alden"?)

Heartbeat 100, rapid pulses
and faint (beneath inked 
tiny poppy wristlets).

Abdomen, soft, rebounding,
normal sounding,
(at her navel, a Celtic knot surrounding).

Skin intact, free of bedsores
on heels, hips, elbows
(hosting animals in scores:

hummingbirds behind her arms
around her heels, talons like thorns
tortoise-shell across her sacrum forms).

Strong pedal pulses (revealing anklets,
written with lore of Pacific Crest, 
John Muir, and Yukon footsteps).

..............diagnosis: "dementia, Julie G. Alden, family unknown".


  1. dementia with family unknown...ugh...that is sad....

  2. oh wow - this poem is amazing. I love how delicately and subtly you convey the value and significance (undeciphered) of this unknown woman through her tattoos. After describing the 'hummingbirds behind her elbows,' etc., the last line seems so small and limited. This poem is a beautiful reminder of how a stranger must be viewed as a person with her own story hidden inside her.