28 April 2012

An accidental poem

My friend Tavie wrote a heartfelt note earlier this week about accidental poetry centered on the topic of elder care. It reminded me of this poem I drafted circa 1995...for years I've worked and reworked it, and have come to the conclusion that the ending will, sadly, never satisfy me. And I also worry that it's murky (a sure sign I've stared at it too much.)

Leaving Room 107

Leaving Room 107 (Leta’s Room)
and cross over to other side
and go to other side down to
end near kitchen and then turn and
go up to Fred’s room and go in
and wait. Then go up to other
end and turn and come to
table to eat

I found these instructions
after he died.
folded into pants-pocket
shape, red ink fading to pink,
they were my grandfather’s compass
around the nursing home
that never was familiar.
No matter how hard he tried…
no room in his brain.

Leta was his one true friend.

Four years older—her mind intact,
her body tentative—
she did the thinking
while Grampy, still strong,
gave her his arm.
Widow and widower
walking together.

After three years
Grampy was asked to move.
(Something vague about
needing more care.)

Soon after,
Leta had a stroke,
robbing her mind,
taking her speech.

We visited,
and she cried
harder than I’ve ever seen
anyone cry—
wailing, unable, alone and afraid.
Grampy stroked her cold hand
and said, “Now, now,
that’s okay. Old Fred’s here.
Remember me?”

One week later, Grampy fell,
dizzy from flu.

He never walked again.

In memoriam:
Leta B. Chisholm
May 16, 1900 – March 22, 1993 

Fred H. Arnold
January 23, 1904 – May 21, 1993