How to Behave with the Ill by Julia Darling
Approach us assertively, try not to
cringe or sidle, it makes us fearful.
Rather walk straight up and smile.
Do not touch us unless invited,
particularly don’t squeeze upper arms,
or try to hold our hands. Keep your head erect.
Don’t bend down, or lower your voice.
Speak evenly. Don’t say
‘How are you?’ in an underlined voice.
Don’t say, I heard that you were very ill.
This makes the poorly paranoid.
Be direct, say ‘How’s your cancer?’
Try not to say how well we look.
compared to when you met in Safeway’s.
Please don’t cry, or get emotional,
and say how dreadful it all is.
Also (and this is hard I know)
try not to ignore the ill, or to scurry
past, muttering about a bus, the bank.
Remember that this day might be your last
and that it is a miracle that any of us
stands up, breathes, behaves at all.