The Long Night

They kept vigil throughout the night,
watching every movement, every breath,
every flicker of dwindling candlelight,
shadowy fingers of encroaching death,
until the welcome morning light
gently caressed the child’s fretting face
and soothed away the livid, bright
red of fever. All those missed heartbeats
crashed together with relief at the sight
of the child’s first smile in over a week.
Sweat-soaked sheets replaced with fresh, white
linen, the stale musk of illness whisked away,
windows opened wide, and the long night
disappeared, replaced by joyous day.

Kim M. Russell, 19th September 2019

Image result for painting and artwork sick child
‘The Sick Child’ (1906) by Oscar Arnold Wergeland – image found on Wikimedia

My response to Poets United Midweek Motif: Vigilance, also linked to dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night

This week Susan quotes Ida B. Wells and Abraham Lincoln, as well as sharing poetry by Rebecca Dunham, Natasha Trethewey and Richard Brautigan, all on the theme of vigilance.

She asks if vigilance is a useful community action or whether it is too exhausting; how much more creative people might be if their attention wasn’t divided by constant vigilance.

Susan asks us to write new poems that address the monitoring and vigilance we see as necessary or obtrusive.

57 thoughts on “The Long Night

  1. Aah…What a relief at the end! This reminds me of another sick child Charley. The baby has had three major brain surgery within two weeks. She is five and suffering from brain cancer. I follow her mother’s time line on Facebook. The mother is showing some extra ordinary grit. Feel so sorry for her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember back in February/March when I stated with my daughter while her husband was away and my grandson was so I’ll we had to take him to the hospital. It is hard to cope with a child being ill.


  2. This is the vigilance we are all most familiar with, sitting near the sick bed of a loved one. A beautiful poem that shows “All those missed heartbeats
    crashed together with relief . . . ” and a new day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Kim….this is so heartfelt and describes so well the scene of tending to an ill child…through the night(s), the fever, until the break of dawn literally…a new day when the child is well. Just an excellent descriptive piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful write Kim. It’s so strange to think that only 100 years ago, a fever could spell disaster for a family and in small children it can still be such a danger. My sister had croup as a baby and my mother said it was utterly horrific because each breath sounds like it will be their last. You captured that distress so well in the imagery in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kim, your poem brought a memory of when my oldest was a toddler and got so ill. Never was there such fear, and never was there such relief when he began to get well. You’ve captured it so well here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent message that touches us all. It is sad to think that not all such vigils end wrapped in a rainbow at sunrise. I would not have been in the mood for a dark ending, but sometimes poetics have to pass through darkness in order to spike our alacrity and empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a strong sense of balance pans in equal measure between light and dark here, the tense waiting which is the vigil. How wonderfully and sublimely you resolve it with “ll those missed heartbeats /
    crashed together with relief at the sight / of the child’s first smile in over a week.” And the day begins. Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. kaykuala

    windows opened wide, and the long night
    disappeared, replaced by joyous day.

    So wonderful to welcome a beautiful day! It is a great feeling to be blessed!


    Liked by 1 person

  9. Vigilance for a sick child is attention well spent but there are other types where if you’re in a state of hyper-vigilance because you worry needlessly over every little thing…well, then that is nonsense, exhausting and useless. Right? So nice to be reading another of your wise and insightful works, Kim.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This certainly brings out the tension and waiting for recovery. Thanks for the smile as parents that helps lighten the mood as I find myself in a reawakened parental vigilance with a young grandchild when they are so active. As Bodhirose says striking the balance of hyper vigilance with due care. Such an interesting prompt on vigilance too.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi poet!. Wanted to let you know I am “temporarily” sightless in my right eye from a retinal disease. It is a struggle fir me to write, but I will still wrote my pieces, going very slowly. Reading at any length is extremely difficult, and causes painful headache — so wanted to say thanks for contributing to OLN. But I won’t be able to read what you wrote, yet I wanted to visit. I spent a little time writing this best I could with one eye, i copied it, and I am pasting it in here to say hi. Got an operation coming up in about a week when the infection is down. Hopefully things will get back to normal.thanks, Rob

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The watching, the waiting. My neighbor’s son fell from the back of a moving truck and hit his head on the road. It’s been bad and they haven’t left his side. College boy. I have been imagining them sitting and waiting. This poem certainly drips heavy with the worry – and then the sigh of relief is felt!

    Liked by 1 person

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