Don’t Care About

By October 2, 2018 No Comments
CommunicationPalliative CareQuote

Recently, we have been caring for a homeless veteran. We call him Mr. J; we have been trying to help him which, at times, seems impossible. Over time we have learned a few things. He is from the upper Mid-West; has some family there, but has lived here in Alabama for at least the last two years, in a camp in the woods.

Unfortunately, the tumor has locked his jaw tight and he can hardly talk. This makes understanding how he came to be homeless and making plans for a very limited future difficult. However, I think, Mr. J would answer to the name Don’t Care About. We do care; but I am not sure he always can appreciate that we do.

In this poem No World is Intact, the voice of the narrator leans into that personal space to take care of someone known as Don’t Care About.  There are others that cared about Mr. J. One day I came to his room because of shouting.  A deaf man from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is trying to get a mute man (Mr. J/Don’t Care About ) to give him his clothes so he can take them home and wash them for him. Reluctantly Mr. J agrees. The deaf man cryptically says that they, the DAV, are all he has had the last few years.

No world is intact
by Alice Notley

No world is intact
and no one cares about you.

I leaned down over
don’t care about, I care about
I leaned down over the

world in portrayal
of carefulness, answering

something you couldn’t say.
walking or fallen and you
were supposed
to give therapy to me—

me leaning down
brushing with painted feathers
the last chance for your operatic,


In the end we are trying to arrange for him to go home. This seems to be what he wants at this point. This morning I watched the nursing aid  as she carefully helps him wash and bandage his face where the tumor is eroded. Clearly she cares; I think he can sense that she is providing Radical Hospitality which I have challenged myself and our team to practice.  Suddenly, there is a call that Mr. J has died. He was terminally ill but this is sudden, operatic, even. Later that day the DAV man brings back his clothes. He is crying, something he loudly says he never does. He cared about Don’t Care About.

Read this poem again a few times, it helps to read it out loud to truly appreciate the sadness of that person that would self-identify as Don’t Care About.


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