Caregivers can’t afford the time
to daydream, resent, feel self-conscious.
It could screw up their schedule
for pills, meals, shots, or relieving
some other family member,
who has to go to work. Yet in the midst
of changing bags and sheets, or turning
a body over to check bedsores,
a phone may ring (“Congratulations!”),
the radio turn staticky,
the TV insufficiently innocuous.
Then for a moment caregivers
think of great obstructive slabs
inserted into life like artificial
coral reefs that will not work
in an ocean already too acidic;
of God and His motives;
or, seldom and most painfully, of people.
What they feel, unknowing, at such times
are the watchers
who sit in different, cooler, cleaner air
behind invisible intertemporal glass.
The firm behind these tours
puts an old-fashioned light on them
in ads: proceeds to charity
(except for administrative costs).
Hard to say where the appeal
lies, the greater grotesquerie:
the bending, fussing, endless motion
of the healthy ones, the way they talk,
even sing to their charges; or those charges.
The watchers, who will never of course
need anyone, know words
for what they’re seeing, apply them; they slip off.
Kids, dragged along
perhaps to be edified, giggle at the sounds.