Night Shifts

Night shifts slow down in the small hours.

The Ward so dim I can barely see

As I watch you, watching me.

What thoughts, in conjuncture, trip and spark

As you gaze lightly through the dark.


One of us is lost, one disturbed

The other quietly observes the absurd

I wonder where the line is crossed

as I peer out, or in, through displaced eyes,

which of us is being supervised?


Cool darkening begins to creep in,

unpicking the threads that bind I to Me

As I slips from my sense of being

Me clings to its conjugate 

The switch, now clicked, illuminates.


Silence hangs once more, the curtain drawn, 

Flimsy fabric separates you from I

Shadows act out our fears on screen

A delicate dance of delusion and dream

That forms then splits to reconvene.


But one of us will leave at dawn

As time keeps on its’ tick, tick, tick,

waiting for the tock to clock out, or in,

as when it finds a fragile mind;

the night shifts.


“brief; Making much of Madness DVerse Poetics Challenge write in the 1st or 3rd person of your own experiences (real or imagined) or your witnessing mental health issues.

‘Insight; As a young single Mum I worked agency night shifts as a carer on a psychiatric ward, it was during nights like these I realised there is a fine line between those of us coping alone and those needing support.

14 thoughts on “Night Shifts

  1. the title with its double meaning of shifts is carried throughout the poem and with it goes the uneasy feeling that the line between is fragile and the sense of self a fragment held together with threads
    “The other quietly observes the absurd
    I wonder where the line is crossed”

    Very evocative poem Catherine – and your observations so astute


  2. Astute observations, with a thin wall between the two. I think that way about prisons and the reflections on either side of the bars from each other, the biggest difference of who gets to leave in the morning. Taking it a step farther, the person on the ward or the person behind bars eventually gets released, but the workers remain…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like that you have written this poem from the perspective of a mental health carer rather than patient, the play on the phrase ‘night shifts’, and the way the poem shifts with each stanza. It is also disturbing to think of patient and carer watching each other through the night, which is conveyed eloquently. I got goosebumps from the lines:
    ‘Silence hangs once more, the curtain drawn,
    Flimsy fabric separates you from I’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rob Kistner

    This is full of excellent insight and profound truth Catherine. Extremely well written. The disturbing thing about mental wellness is that, depending whose wielding the definition or conducting the evaluation, most anyone could very likely be determined to be mentally unwell.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “One of us is lost, one disturbed
    The other quietly observes the absurd
    I wonder where the line is crossed”

    and which is whom? Sometimes it seems the main difference between patient and therapist is that the patient has been assigned a label. .


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