I went to see some short films on Friday night, and one of them was about a woman’s experience of Alzhiemer’s. It was really interesting, and it reminded me to go back to this series of poems I started writing about my grandmother’s deteriorating dementia. She went through a period where everything she did centered around traveling–going “home”–and she kept packing suitcases. I wanted to do some lino cuts to go with the poems, and solicited friends to do drawings of suitcases. I got one response, and printed it. I’m still looking for suitcases, if you are interested in drawing one for me.
Here are the first two poems I wrote for this series.
In the attic, the Samsonite–your name,
a distant echo–
we were symbiotic, constantly aware–
Here, it is quiet and she cannot recover
the evenings when his books drowned out
her thoughts. Now, he is–
the shotgun leans against the doorjamb, waiting.
Daughter, sister, mother blend and carry
into the Painted Desert. The dog in the
backyard wakes the neighbors, even
through the cancer.
She holds your hand and then they
take you away. Fold the nightgowns and place
them on top of the underwear. The rushes
waver in the ocean air.
You pack what you need for the trip. That
night, moon lighting the landscape. We built
the fire to last the night.
Now everything is cold.
There are days when images connect
with names. And then you know he is gone.
Once, I put the keys on the night
stand. What do you call that pretty
red bird? It was impressive, the heat.
You imagine there is somewhere else–
a brother whose name is silent–
a mother who survived the birth–
Carry only what serves you.
Tomorrow, we will go home.