Tag Archives: poem about Alzheimer’s

Blown

 

Blown

It whistles a soft melody, this whisper of the wind.
Sings a mysterious lullaby, seemingly without end.
We do not know its language, but know it well by Braille.
It makes a tangle of our hair and swells our vessel’s sail.
It blows into a tempest that hurls us off our course.
Where it once took us willingly, it takes us now by force.
It is that infinite mystery whose answer is unknown
until someday, perhaps, when we arrive at where we’re blown.

The prompts for today are: unknown whisper infinite  lullaby
https://fivedotoh.com/2018/07/29/fowc-with-fandango-unknown/
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/rdp59-whisper/
https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/daily-addictions-2018-week-30/(infinite)
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/lullaby/

 

In the Open

In the Open

The day is balmy
with segmented clouds.
The African tulip tree
spreads its boughs wide
over the seated ones
as well as the one who stands in front of us,
leading us to ground our feet,
relax our arms with hands palms up
and to go inside ourselves
to watch our breath
and be in the now,
in the state that she calls openness.

To be in the future is not openness, she says,
and to be in the past is not openness.
Only the now is really living.
And it occurs to me
that when I think I want a cup of coffee
and leave my studio to go in search of it,
then, in the kitchen,
can’t remember what I’m there for,
(and the reason why so many
friends my age are doing the same)
is because we are in this state of openness
more frequently
as we get older.
Wanting a cup of coffee is in the future,
and remembering we wanted a cup of coffee
a few minutes ago
is having to remember the past.

Standing here in the kitchen
listening to the baby birds’
loud cheeps
from their nest in the kitchen overhang
is being in the now.
And so it is that all of us, as we age,
are in the deepest stages of meditation
most of the time
and should not worry so much
about Alzheimer’s or dementia,
because we are where Tibetan monks
and ladies leading meditiation
would have us be.

Open. Living the now
with increasingly
less memory
for what was
or was to be.

 

The Ragtag prompt today is open.

Spinning Top

 

Spinning Top

Is senility a resurrected prenatal state—
hearing the outer world
with limited stages of connection?
Or is it a journey backwards through a lifetime,
remembering details pushed into
the closets of the mind by daily tasks?

The hum of a life is deafening in this world.
Even with earbuds or headsets,
the noise of the world streams in,
wired direct into our consciousness,
quelling thoughts of our own,
wiping clean for the time being,
memories.

The whole world with us every minute
leads to no world of our own.
Barraged our entire lives,
more now than ever,
does senility offer a time before our death
to connect with our inner selves once more?

Relieved of the world,
do we spin like a top into that inner world,
remembering a lifetime lost to activity—
the resurrected adolescence of old age 
evolving backwards into a dreaming time
wherein we joyfully wander ourselves again?

Some choose the rope, fearing a nightmare of senility,
yet some of us hope for a return to dreams of childhood,
relieved of all care, even for ourselves.
No one comes back to tell us which it is,
yet some of us?
 We hope.
We hope.

 

For RDP the prompt was Resurrection.

She Always Sleeps with the Radio On

My sister Betty, ages three to seventy three


She Always Sleeps with the Radio On

Each night,
      as I negotiate
              the squeaky stairs
                   from her attic guest room
           down to the bathroom
     one more time,
I hear the voices.

I imagine them as her companions,
    drowning out night sounds,
        freeing her mind from its hard task
of remembering.

Tonight, she sits on a lawn chair
on the grass. I sit on the front steps,
listening
   to a friend on the
     steps next to me, strumming, strumming,
as my sister and I sing along
in high school harmony.

The little girls across the street
       are the first to come,
       tiny lawn chairs in arms,
  to plop themselves in front of us
for the concert.

As they settle, my sister says,
“Now, back to the music.”

Moments later, their mother follows,
   bringing initial happy news
       of their upcoming trip
to a lake where last year
a teenage girl had been abducted,
         a segue to more disturbing news
of yesterday’s daylight intruder
flushed from a house a block away.

I’d noticed
    the police car
       circling, puzzled
           by his vigilance as we walked
      the neighborhood today.
 I’d smiled at the man on the bike who didn’t look
      a part of this neighborhood, wondering how he’d fare,

but now I feel the threat of him.

“House of the Rising Sun,” stops dog-walkers in their tracks
  as the litle ones
     sit on the sidewalk
         stringing beads I brought,
capturing this night
to hang around their necks:
gray plastic elephants,
            pink stars,
                   orange hearts,
                           green dolphins strung midleap
on sparkly purple cord.

This night strings us all together:
                  beads, words, music, the night sounds
of insects and frogs,

                                                 happy stories interspersed with fearful ones,
traffic from the busy street one block away.
             Hungry mosquitoes,
                    gathering suddenly,
are what break us apart.

     As we climb the stairs,
             her door
                        next
                            to the only
                                   bathroom
                     in the house
              closes.

For the first time 
    in the week I’ve been here,
          I hear no radio
                on my nightlong explorations
down the stairs.

At ten o’clock, 1:30 and 3,
          the hall outside her bedroom
                         stays silent,
          this evening’s full company
flooding over into the night.

We have exhausted her mind, filled it, worn her out.
           She stlll feels our presence.
                     
                                Four a.m.

A creaking door, and once again,
          silence becomes
        a cup for her to fill.
            Something is needed
to relieve worry—
to leave no room
    for either remembering
  or the lack of it.
I hear them then, insistent, down the stairs and in the hall.

                       Voices all night long.

 

 

The prompt word today is insist.

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.

Ashes and Dust and : NaPoWriMo 2016, Day 25 and “Whisper,” WordPress Daily Prompt

DSC00620 (1)

“After all our years have settled like dust . . .”
                                           ––okc forgottenman

Ashes and Dust

When that cruel wind
blows against memories
that have settled like dust
on our lives,

what  will remain
sealed in our crevasses
––fine furniture that we are
of a bygone age?

What remaining minutes
of a long life of years
will define us then?
A kiss? A child held in arms?
Regrets? Terrors?

In those storerooms
where people  sit
stacked in silent cubicles,
what zephyrs whisper through
to stir the embers
of their minds?

Is there music in those currents
or are they the sad
whining winds
that curl over headstones
and lament the dust that settles there,

moaning through cracks in attics
and around hanging eaves troughs,
causing them to swing and bump
lonely against the fading
wood of abandoned houses?

LIfe builds us and wears us away
like the mountain.
Like sand on the beach.
We are not above it all.

No matter how much power
we think we gain,
Nature is a wind that breathes
into us at birth,
then blows itself away.

The NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem making use of the first line of someone else’s poem.  You can find the poem by okc forgottenman that I drew inspiration from Here. The WordPress prompt was “whisper.”

 

http://www.napowrimo.net/day-twenty-five-2/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/whisper/

 

Voice

The one word prompt today was “Voice.”  “Gray Walls with Boxes”  is a rewrite of a poem I wrote four years ago.  In it I attempt to act as the voice of my sister Betty who is in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.  Everything in the poem is an attempt to see the world as she was then seeing it, as evidenced by what she said to me and I recorded either in notes or with a voice recorder during our visits.

I often wonder whether those suffering from dementia are actually in a different world of their own making that is pleasant to them.  I think my sister now is, but four years ago––at the stage I describe in this poem––she was often in distress, confusing the interrelationship of people, objects, paintings on the wall, the television and what was going on around her.  To her, all seemed to be part of the same reality.

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 even though it tries to comfort me,
I cannot stop.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/voice/