Quietly as loneliness

by Gillian Swain

none of them could come
to say goodbye
it’s the rules these days
and death comes as reliably as
the ward-nurse shift change
as clumsily as they barge into
the hushed hospital room
as quietly as loneliness
as loudly as all the things
left unsaid
as final
as a failing heart

Welcome essay:
My wonderful step-father died in April 2020, during the Covid 19 ‘lockdown’. He had been taken away in an ambulance, the hospital called Mum and I to come in to be with him for his last hours. We were met by a team of nursing staff at the door of the hospital, like a pack of bouncers in hazmat suits, masks and thermometer guns. We were told we were not going to be allowed in. We got in. Moments after he died, a large group of nurses did their change-over lap around the ward. They came into the room smashing the sacred to pieces.

Poet biography:
Gillian Swain spent her childhood exploring the waterfront of Lake Macquarie, mainly around Warners Bay and Speers Point.

Gillian has a poetry collection “My Skin its own Sky” (Flying Islands Press 2019) and shared first place with Magdalena Ball in the MacLean’s Booksellers Award (Grieve Project 2019). She was the curator of all things poetry for the Indie Writers Festival ‘IF Maitland’ in February 2020.

Gillian lives in East Maitland with her husband and their four children, two dogs, and a few fish in the pond out the back.

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