Originally Read: November 29, 2012 (Maybe)
More information about the Poet: Rita Mae Reese
When reading this over again I was thinking about the comments I made about the the tone. I think the tone is really well done here.
First, the speaker is the nurse taking care of an elderly person who forgets. I thought the elderly person was a man throughout the poem, but it can be an elderly woman because I don't see any indication of gender, and the same could be said about the nurse (I think it's a woman, but there's no specific gender in the poem). I won't get into that. Sexist reinforcing gender tropes. Let's just move on, shall we?
Anyway, the tone, dispassionate, morbidly humorous tone in the second stanza spoken from the outsider -- the nurse -- offsets the "sentimentality" in stanza three, "she is / eveything--you gave / me a shake--everything / to me."
The line breaks emphasize (maybe overemphasizes) a sense of desperation and want to have someone mean something to the elderly person. The niece means everything.
However, I felt the usage of "she is / everything" works here because the phrase is an observation made by the nurse (the speaker), who, by the end of the poem, returns to a more observational, cold tone. This poem is not a lament over not having someone or a pity party of why the elderly person is lonely.
The poem is about a nurse who cannot change point of views in a morbid environment, gone is the cynical humor in stanza two and the more personal tone in stanza three is no more. In the last stanza, the tone goes back to an observational tone set up in stanza one. and ends just the same -- to a list that should mean something, but really means nothing (it's just a list to the nurse, everything to the elderly person [tropes reinforced]).