Category Archives: Poems about aging

Bewildered: Gray Walls with Boxes

 

Gray Walls with Boxes

Once I knew words that fit together.
Now my mind still has the answers,
but rarely lets me in to find them.

People who seem to know me
bring pizza in a box
and we eat it in front of another box I’ve forgotten the name for––
a small world with other people moving in it that I don’t know.
Sometimes words appear in a ribbon on the bottom edge of that box
and I wonder if I understood them
if they ‘d tell me what I’m supposed to do.

On the walls are other flat boxes
with people frozen in them
and I think it is my fault.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
“They are your pictures, Mother.
They’re there for decoration—
for you to enjoy,”
a woman tells me
when I ask her
if she’d like to take them
home with her.

I don’t belong here.
My high school boyfriend
must be wondering
where I’ve gone
and my daughter is as confused as I am,
claiming to be her own child;
and then one day my sister comes
and I have to laugh because they all
look so much alike—
my sister and her niece and her niece’s daughter
whom they try to convince me
are my daughter and my granddaughter––
so many layers of daughters
that it is too hard to keep them
all in mind.

But then that floats away
and I am trying to remember
when I am leaving this hotel
and I feel I’m not suited to run for president
although all those people
cheering at that big convention in that little box
want me to––
that little box they turn off and on each day,
sometimes before or after I’m ready
to have it turned off.

And they take me to that large room
where all those silent older people sit.
I do not want to go into this room,
but I am lucky, and we move through it.
Someone’s daughters have come to put me
into a box that moves us through the world
without walking. At first, I am so surprised by it,
then I remember what it is
but can’t remember the word for it.
As we sit in it, the world moves by
too fast, scaring me, and I try
to weep unnoticed.
But then they take me out of it,
give me popcorn
and lead me into a very large room
with many people sitting down
and an entire wall with larger people
moving on it, and it is so confusing, like déjá vu,
for I remember being in a room like this before,
but I don’t know if I’m supposed to
make them do something other
than what they are doing
or if I’m already controlling them with my thoughts
or if I’m supposed to be
up there on the wall with them.
I can’t remember whether these people
on either side of me are my sisters
or my children or strangers,
sitting chair after chair down the long aisle.

Most days, I am so sad all day long,
but sometimes my real self
comes to visit and I think,
how did I become a martyr like my grandmother
and why can’t I stop myself from crying, just like her?
One gray wall meets another at the corner
and I’m sure
that I am being punished
for things I did but can’t remember.

That blank face
in the mirror
has me in it,
but I can’t get out
and for a moment I know, then forget
that this is why I cry
and cry and cry
and cry.

 

I think the deep stage of bewilderment that Alzheimer’s brings us to is the biggest fear of many of us who are over the age of sixty.  I’ve written poems about earlier and later stages of this dread disease, but  this poem describes as closely as was possible for me the way my sister Betty seemed to be feeling at a couple of different stages of her dementia.  Her delusion that it was she who was running for president the year Obama was elected, her befuddlement over the television and later over the art on the walls, over the identity of family members, and finally her astonishment over being in a moving car and at the movies.  This may have marked the last time we took her out of the care facility where she still resides. I went to see her a few months ago and still plan to write about her present state. Anyone who has a loved one in some stage of this heartbreaking disease will know haw hard it is to imagine how they may be feeling and how equally hard it is to write about it.  That is why I keep putting it off. I’m running this poem again after five years because it seems to fit today’s prompt, which is bewildered.

Staying Afloat

Enlarge all photos by clicking on any photo.

Staying Afloat

The days my life is not erratic
are the days it is too static.
I need an leavening in life—
a lessening of loss and strife—
that doesn’t store me in the attic.

Retirement is not intended
to designate a life as ended.
I’d like some fun and some pizazz
aside from knitting and Shiraz.
I’d like my salad days extended.

Turn off the news. Turn up the notes.
I prefer hearing what emotes.
There is coverage enough
of Donald Trump and other stuff.
I’m tired of inane Twitter quotes!

Bring in the band and serve the drinks.
One’s only as old as she thinks.
I’ll move my body, move my mind.
(True, my brain  more than my behind.)
For what is static is what sinks.

The prompt today is static.

Leap Year

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Leap Year

This year, indivisible by four,
is nonetheless a leap year.
As friends fall away from my life
like leaves losing hold,
I make adjustments,
searching for a direction
other than down,
spread my wings,
letting that stubborn wind
that blows me
determine my direction.

 

A quadrille for dVerse Poets. The prompt is “leap.”

Substandard in My Dotage

Well-dressed-older-women
     

Substandard in My Dotage

My body is substandard, defective, under par.
It does okay for walking if I don’t walk very far,
but at jogging mile after mile I would not be my best.
My left knee hath a hitch in it and so it doth protest.

And as for aesthetics, it takes no art detective
to discover all the many ways that I am  defective.
My skin is pale and blotchy and will not stay in place.
It sags here on my underarms and here below my face.

My fingernails are ridgy, my toes starting to curl.
Everything is different from when I was a girl.
And though I have less hair now in places where it’s been,
When I go in search of it, I find it on my chin.

Gravity has claimed those spots where once I was most perky.
That neck so firm and regal now resembles most a turkey.
The pounds that all my life I have been struggling to lose,
as by magnetism have settled where they choose.

Some ladies age most gracefully. I fear I am not one.
Of all the charms of aging I’ve not captured even one.
So I guess I’ll just dress funny with a little flair.
Put shadow on my eyelids and feathers in my hair.

I’ll jangle all my bracelets and put on all my rings.
I’ll give away old lady clothes and wear more stylish things.
At least I’ll finish my last yard with a little dash.
What I lack in all the rest I’ll make up with panache.

 

Substandard is the prompt word today. Photo borrowed from the Internet.      

Brick Wall

 
cat·a·pult  : a device in which accumulated tension is suddenly
released to hurl an object some distance, in particular.

Brick Wall

Two times in the kitchen—hurrying like a fool.
One time on the terrace when I tripped over a stool.
Three times in the hall when I stumbled on the stair.
The wall my forehead hit each time needed no repair.
Not so my skull which needs new paradigms inside
of how to live my life by slowing down my stride.

I am scared of my subconscious—it’s refusing to be tamed.
If I do not learn its language, I’m afraid I’ll soon be maimed.
When steps and mops in pails and stools taught me not at all,

my stubborn subconscious launched me at a wall,
totalling my car—a frighteningly close call.

Bruised and sore, I hear the words  the doctor said,
“Take these pills two times a day and spend five days in bed.”
Six bad falls? One totalled car? I finally do the math.
Something wants to put obstacles in my path.
It says, “Take off the running shoes. Reduce those trips to town.
Loll around a few days more in your dressing gown.

Never do more than one thing. Give each thing its time.
To think I can do all of it is simply asinine.
Why do I think that I should be continually busy?
Why go up on ladders when I know it makes me dizzy?

The less I do it seems there are more I shouldn’t do’s.
Somedays it’s an adventure just locating my shoes
and cell phone and my glasses and finally, my keys.
Then I drive to town for broccoli and come home with blue cheese.
When did it get more difficult? It seems this is all new,
and yet I wrote about those falls a year ago or two.

A catapult propels one up over the wall
and over every obstacle that could cause a fall.
Why avoid the catapult? Why think that I should be
the person I was yesterday—that one no longer me?
Ironic that the catapult instructs me to slow down,
leave prat falls to the stunt man and the circus clown.
“Put some space around the things that you think you should do.
Take some time to hear what life’s trying to tell you.
All this beauty for your eyes yet often you don’t see it.
That same beauty within you waiting for you to be it.”

Catapult is the daily prompt, but this poem certainly also works for the prompt Reprieve.

Grandpa’s Lament

Version 3

Grandpa’s Lament

Oh to be nimble, unfettered and young––
heedless, with yesterday’s breath on my tongue.
Scuffed shoes unpolished and hair all awry,
with nary a reason for white shirt or tie.

Chucking small stones, shooting rubber bands.
Gritty black fingernails, scandalous hands
sporting sand from the sandbox or silky black loam
from digging for earthworms or sliding on home.

I’d like to be lithesome and agile and spry––
a long life in front of me before I die;
but my years are numbered, my life’s nearly over.
Gone is my past as a rambler and rover.

I sit on my porch and watch younger men
take off for those places I’ve already been;
knowing my wild years are too far behind me.
I’m an Energizer bunny with no one to wind me.

Maddeningly, although I know I still dream, I forget them the moment my eyes open. Instead, I usually wake up with the first line of a poem on my mind. In this case, I used it as the second line of this morning’s poem.