The strongest sounds
disturb the quietness
of the hospital cardiac care unit.
The man across the hall coughs.
The nurse's shoes squeak as they hasten
from one patient to the next--
in response to the beep
of a call bell.
The same sound as that emitted
by a backing truck
signals that a heart monitor lead
has come off its connector.
The voices of the staff echo loudly
from the busy nurse's station.
A non-sleeping patient
is still twisting the TV dial
at 2:30 a.m.
trying to find some entertainment
to help her pass the long night.
Knocks on the door precede the entrances
of blood-takers and thermometer-checkers.
The blood pressure cuff
stays attached all the time
and works automatically every two hours
giving off a sound like a cat purring.
But the sound which stands out
loudest of all
is the sound of caring.
It comes through the tender touch
of the one who bathes,
through the efficient response of a worker
to the worst of tasks,
through the kindliness
of personnel to families,