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Ley de Vida

Conversation in a care home, Soria, Spain.  March 2016.

Es ley de vida, Maria.

This is the law of life, Maria.

This is how things are, you know.

Two years ago, I knew

I had to leave my home and go.

I could no longer cook or clean,

Or even pick the few beans

Left in the garden,

Full of weeds it was, I’m afraid,

Full of weeds.

This is the law of life, Maria,

And no one is exempt.

Not even the little girls

Running down the street,

That we once were.

So here we are,

And we do what we can.

I can still use a needle, thank God,

And they bring me all the little things

That need some stitching here or there,

A tear on a sleeve

And the eternal need of a button that’s gone.

Or I sew a name on a new white blouse

For someone who has just arrived.

So I am useful in a way,

As they are kind enough to say.

We must go on. We must go on.

We must do all that we can do.

I know that here time is not what it was.

The days are long,

But the years are short.

From hour after hour of careful watching,

We know every mark on the floor

Or we stare at the window by the door.

Some days we study the ceiling,

For a change.

I could tell you every crack there,

And the strands of every spider’s web.

When we are still and sitting here,

We cause no trouble.

We, who ruled our little school room,

And watched the pupils row by row,

And silenced the chatter of the wayward boys,

Who now themselves are old and slow.

We, who ruled the farm,

Who knew each goat and cow,

The dogs and all the ginger cats,

All gone now.

They knew my ways,

And every dawn they came for food

When I threw the shutters open.

We, who ruled our family,

And reared our children

And taught them what to say and do,

And then, when needed, taught

Our children’s children too.

No, no.  Stay now. Don’t go!

When we are still and sitting here,

We cause no trouble.


Though a little walk outside

In the air and in the sun

Would be a change from the long, long day

We spend inside.

But there we are.

We mustn’t bother them.

They do what they can do.

Listen, they are calling us for dinner.

It is time to go,

To make a move,

To begin our pilgrimage to the dining room.

So let us start the slow procession

To our table in the corner.

I wonder what we’ll have tonight.

The soup is always good, you know.

And so, Maria, let us go

Along the passage.

And as they push your chair,

I’ll walk beside you,

While I can.