This is a lovely poem about an elderly married couple who share a room at a nursing home. The woman is confined to bed because her backbone is "so thin / the doctor jokes that X-rays can't find it." Her husband's mind is gone. The woman reflects on the morning activities, especially those of the "night girl" who brings the breakfast trays and, later, bends down to take her husband's tray, "the perfume / still lingering from whatever went on / before last night's shift." The woman asks herself: How would this young girl of 20 know that the two elderly people she is caring for once "made love / in the sweetfern high on an island."


A poignant poem that expresses the deep and serene love of an elderly woman for her now-demented husband. It is especially moving in the context of their current lives--in a nursing home, where their daughter rarely has time to visit and the "night girls" turn them into curious objects of impatience or pity.

Primary Source




Place Published

New York