Permanent Values in a Changing World

A poem from Ashwell

Ashwell House is an intercollegiate Hall of Residence in London. Among other things the students visit elderly people and find that like Shakespeare's quality of Mercy," it blesses him that gives and him that takes". Nkiru Agbu wrote a poem about Jeane:


My Solitary Visit

As I walked in through those doors 
I was immediately hit by those striking sad blue eyes
Something mysterious about her eyes
That tore into the depth of my soul
I felt dizzy because I’d come alone,
for a fleet second considered reversing my stroll, affronted by her usual insults
But this time they didn’t hit me
I laughed them off
I knew she was sad
So I let her be
I understood but then again, I didn’t understand
She thanked me and cursed me
But she thanked me again and again and again
And then she cried
My heart was moved, deeply
I wanted to help in anyway
So I held her and comforted her
But she cried some more.
I was terrified
But in my terror there was love
For this strange lady whom I did not know
In her stare I saw truth
It wasn’t by chance I was moved to visit
She told me she’d prayed and I’d come
I smiled because I’d prayed earlier
And silence had whispered her name
She’d had no visitors all day
The nurses came in but they walked away
Not one of them cared was what she said
She persisted in her offer to return my favour
But I persisted in my refusal
She’d given me more than she knew
A gift amazing and beautiful
One which my heart will remember her by
She gave me her love in her words and her smile.
In the atmosphere floated a comfortable peace
A happy comfort that left our souls at ease
All she needed was a friend
But friends were long gone now
It wasn’t her choice to lie in that bed
Unable to move and live like everyone else
Once upon a time she was happy,
And useful, vibrant and youthful
But the unhappy tricks of time
Had robbed her body of beauty
And left her neglected and forgotten
Helpless and disheartened
She didn’t stop crying
The manner in which she converted her tears to humour
Was remarkably striking
Glimpses of the beautiful soul
Repressed beneath the broken body
Escaped easily
And as her eyes lit up so did mine
She was beautiful
And the root of her sadness
Though partly her pain
Was more from the ridicule
Imposed by sin on the souls of many people.
For that moment I saw her suffering and I felt her pain
It wasn’t light and my heart ached
She was alone and she was afraid too
But I knew my simple visit had done some good
I’d brought with me light and hope but I was to leave with more
As I bent to say goodbye
She whispered I love you
Frightened I replied I loved her too
I knew her words were true
And mine were too
I had to return
And if possible
Next time bring with me the sun.