By Ellen Zhang, MDThis poem is inspired by my time in the Geriatrics Connection Clinic where I heard stories of elderly people who were both patients and caregivers. One of the participants shared a story that blossomed into the poem that I have shared here. 

Last Thursday, you rearranged
teabags in the nursing home.
Neat rows of blacks, greens, florals,
previously skewed in the cabinet
from other hurried hands shuffling them
searching for the right taste,
those other hands rushing
to wheel residents down the hall
or receive phone calls of families
wanting to speak to loved ones.
Your hands are delicate,
shriveling like mossy seaweed,
blue veins are running tributaries,
protruding, pulsating.
One of the staff members
told you to stop sorting
teabags, go back to your room,
read a magazine, or take a nap.
You refused, staying there,
silently organizing and
reorganizing. The scent of mint
and lemons lingers
in the air. You can barely
remember what day it is or how
to fold your own clothes,
yet you know that the jasmine
and lavender teas belong
next to each other.
Who are we to say to stop
sorting teas? After all,
part of you must know
that this is your kitchen,
this is your home.
I sit and ask you
to make me a cup of tea
and that moment lingers
even now as the happiest
I have seen you.