#DementiaActionWeek #DementiaActionAwarenessWeek 2021. 17th-23rd May. Day three. We must urge the government to cure the care system. Have you written unpublished/published work about dementia? Created artworks about dementia? Please contact me if you would like your work featured this week.

Day Three

0001

See Me After

Teaching was in your blood —
you had red ink in your veins.
Cigarette in one hand,
a pen poised in the other,

you’d attack the marking pile.
Tick, cross, underline,
“Good work,” “Must improve,”
your default mode: exasperation.

In the end, when words really did fail you
and I had to help you out,
you still picked me up on mine.
“The man who does odd jobs?”

“A janitor,” I suggest.
“Yes, yes, but the English word.
You watch too much TV.”
Alright, a caretaker then.

It’s just as well you can’t see
that it isn’t spelt “all right”.
I used to resent your corrections.
These days I’m glad you still care.

You wouldn’t be you,
if you weren’t the one in charge.
After you went into care,
it was only a matter of time

before you assumed some role,
institutions being all alike.
Accompanist I could believe,
but “Lecturing, Mum? On what?”

In the end, when your dreamed-up tasks
became too much to bear,
you demanded to see the warden
to hand in your notice to quit.

-Stephen Claughton

Bedtime Ritual

How long have we been married?
he says, as we start the bedtime routine.
We’re not married, Dad, I say.
I’m not your wife.
What are you then? he asks.
I’m your daughter.
Oh yes, daughter, that’s right,
and without missing a beat,
How long have we been married?
Oh, a long time, I say, giving in,
distracting him with a chocolate
and fetching his PJs.

Out of the corner of my eye,
I see him hide the chocolate under his pillow.
Don’t take those, he pleads,
as I attempt to scoop up his clothes,
I haven’t got any more.
The worry whisks him into agitation;
his heart creases with the fear of loss.
And so the nightly ritual unfolds.
Like the king in his counting house,
we are counting out his clothes,
lining up the pants and socks
like toy soldiers on his bed.

Reassured for now,
he looks at the montage of photos.
That’s my mother and my sisters,
and those are my kittens,
he proclaims with misplaced confidence.
But, no matter, for these moments,
like the rest, will skitter into black holes
and dissolve into mist.
As I tuck the sheets around him
he reaches up to hug me.
You’re my favourite dog, he says.
And you mine, I say. The best.

(First published in The Bridport Prize Anthology 2014)

-Val Ormrod

The Dementia Diaries
Raanana, February 25, 2018
1.
Just for the record
I didn’t write this,
My son did.
He says he’s recording
Everything I say to him
On the phone
Since he’s so far away.
He says
He’s writing it like a poem
Though I don’t think
My life is too poetic
And besides,
The lines don’t rhyme.
I didn’t pick the title either.
He says since he’s recording everything,
He gets to pick the title.
Maybe he’s got dementia,
I know I don’t.

2.
What’s this doing here?
I didn’t say
Any of this stuff.
I don’t need a diary,
My memory’s fine.

3.
Well,
As long as you’re asking,
I’m not doing so well today.
Why?
I’ll tell you why.
They said they’d take me home today
And I’m still here waiting.
No, this isn’t my home.
Who are they?
They’re the people
Who said they’d take me home.
No, it’s not my home.
My home is when I was a little girl
With my parents
And my sisters.
What do you mean they died long ago?
I talk to Mama every day
And they come to pick up Daddy
Every Shabbos
Since they need him for a minyan.
My sisters don’t call much,
I guess they’re busy
Doing things they want to do.
Why do you keep saying
They are dead and buried
In the cemetery with Dad?
I know that
But they’re still alive
Since I talk to them
Everyday.
Would I lie to you?
Do I think you’d lie to me?
No,
I guess not.
Maybe I’m losing my mind.

4.
I can only talk
For a few minutes today.
Why?
Because I’ve got to dress
To go to work.
How old do I think I am?
How old do you think I am?
I’m ninety-five?
So what?
I have to pay my bills still.
What do you mean
I don’t have to work?
What do you mean
Everything is paid for here?
Very interesting,
That’s the first time
Anyone’s told me that.
I’ll just hop a bus
And go downtown.
I read the syndicated news
To the local rags
And have lunch
With the girls.
It’s the cat’s meow.
Got to run.

5.
I don’t know why
You don’t believe me
That I work
And this place here
Is not my home.
Just ask my Mama,
She’ll tell you.

6.
If what you say
Is true,
And this is all I have
And all there is
And what I think is true
Is not,
Then what use is there
In living?
Nobody comes to visit me
Or call.
Nobody takes me anywhere
Or asks me if I’d like to go.
My kids are far away.
I don’t see anyone
Except these pictures
On the wall.
No,
I don’t know any of
The other residents.
The lady that kept a teddy bear in her bag?
The one with the trembly voice?
No,
I don’t know anyone like that.
Don’t know anyone.
Maybe I’ll hop a plane
And come to you.

-Mike Stone

Still Alive

I find my father wandering the halls,
his daily search for an escape.
He sees me and tears flood his eyes.
“I thought you had been killed”
he tells me.

“No, Dad,
I am fine.
I am sorry you were scared”.
Tears still fall from his eyes,
but now they fall in shades of relief.

“When is your brother coming?”
he asks
“John will be here soon, Dad”.
My brother has been dead for 6 years

“Is Allan still alive”
my father asks me.
“Yes, Dad,
you are”.

-Susan Richardson (A poem from her recent collection “Things My Mother Left Behind”)

Memory Box
A memory box is a time capsule that connects an individual or group of people with the past through the items that the box contains.

A Sutton Seed Packet. Here you are pop-up book deep in cottage familiars
creaking their delirious roots into blood-warm, well-tended soil. Dotted amongst them, exotic botanicals, the joyful offspring of slips pilfered from National Trust Gardens.

Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. Winter is the time to fret and
look for answers to the unanswerable in late night embers and these pages. Kept
within reach on your bedside table, this book is a compass with which to navigate the dark geometry of the mind.

A crochet needle belonging to your wife. Two lives enmeshed in thousands of interlocking loops. The steadfast slipknot of her dutifulness securing an unbroken chain of family life. She lies with the peonies, icing-sugar-pink, you placed in her coffin. Loved until the end.

A wage slip. The final day of school. Your classmates are hurtling their books over the wall with abandon. You sit crying, bereft, on playground gravel. A bright twelve-year-old. Further education out of grasp. But labourer and factory worker, you will never waver from providing for your family.

A photo of Sloan Street. Greyhounds sleeping in front of the fire. Your sister brushing her hair in a wall mirror. Beyond the backdoor; the cluck and guttural groan of chickens; the promise of fruit bushes in bud. Every prayer and intercession a protective force field.

A CD of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. You are a teenager. O Mio Babinno Caro is playing on a neighbour’s radio. A startling new sound, it seeps through the bedroom wall and into your marrow. God is in music you would say. Puccini, Rachmaninov, Mozart. Passion, solace, elevation.

A pigeon’s life ring. Your father creates cages with old bicycle spokes, in which to keep and observe wild birds. You were always more interested in release than entrapment. A bird’s ability to find its way home, a life-long fascination. The commonplace turned miraculous.

A family bible. Your mother is dangerously ill. Your aunts are either side of you, holding a hand, teaching three-year-old you to count by climbing stairs in their house. One. Two. Three. Keep rising. Moving. Let go of their hands now.

*

Follow magnetic maps to your final destination. As you journey, lift this box high. Scoop and drop each of these totems like ballast from a hot air balloon.

You no longer have a need for them. Let them descend intact.

We are here to catch them. To carry them into the next generation.

-Fiona Perry

Home

She’s spending more time lately,
Moving through those rooms in mind
The visits lasting longer,
Day etched shadow- slips in time
Winter settles at the shoulder
Half-days met with frosted leaves
You will find her out there
In amongst St Flora’s Trees

Walnut drift of banister,
Question-creak of great oak door
One that opens on repeat
Into distant childhood halls
In many darkened attics,
In stopped-up night will hear
Time sifting through the relics
Of muted, archived years
Captured though each slice of light

Dust specks spin in film-reel gold
Her imprint strobes from room to room
As elsewhere, she grows old
Through fishing floats the sun will bloom
Fortune teller’s globes, in nets
In this faded summer room
Time starved heart is to forget
Soft-spent shadows lengthen,
New year bursts with hopeful glow

There her memory sits in warmth
Waiting for us to come home.

-Lauren Thomas

The Naming of Parts

Today we had naming of parts. Yesterday,
yesterday the tide swept you away.
And tomorrow we shall have to salvage. But today,
today we have the naming of parts.

This is the old house, the dog and whatshisname
to name a few random objects cast ashore
though nobody knew which ones.

Driftwood and debris surface
like hit and miss memories.
You ask, “Who am I?”

A lifelong question beaches itself
against time, sopping in a sea fog,
sacrificed and drowned.

A voice from the abyss
asks, “Where am I?”
Lost at sea
in the gulf between us.

The blossoms are fragile and motionless.
Silence overcomes never letting anyone see.
Dismemberment floats into parts.

The sea of memory drifts all about us
even to the end of all our days.
We cannot master the past.

We named one part today. Today.

-© Frances Roberts-Reilly

Published in Parramisha: A Romani Poetry Collection.

Reprinted in Memory and Loss: Poems about Alzheimer’s and Dementia. A Canadian Anthology of Poetry

The Unresolveables

5. Frantic Grasp

By my frantic grasp to prevent their drift
I try to keep all safe. I have sons. O,
how wonderful! These are them, are they? Sift
through the photos. They’re cute.
You have to go?

Please hold my hand just a little longer.
Thankyou. I won beauty contests. Youthful.
I sold microwaves to throngs as youngster.
Managed teams, won prizes. Being truthful.

Do you like my hat? It’s a summer one.
Please stay a bit longer. Don’t like it here.
No, really. I don’t. Lonely when you’ve gone.
Go then. See if I care. Don’t leave me dear.

Someone visited me? Photos. My minds
into forgottenness. They are reminders.

6. They Are

into forgottenness. They are reminders.
Photos remember what is forgotten.
Who are these people? I wake from slumber
to strangers smiling back at me. Fiction.

They mean nothing to me. Why are they framed,
and in my room? These clothes aren’t mine. Someone’s
swapped them! Mine had sewn cotton labels, named.
I’m sure they did. In here they are all cons.

Come into my room in waves, steal what can.
I know what they’re about. Won’t fool me blind.
What do you mean what am I doing? Man,
this is my room. It isn’t? Please help me find

my room. At seas edge I can feel waves lift.
How did I find myself here, a spindrift?

-Paul Brookes

Bios and Links

-Frances Roberts Reilly

is a poet and filmmaker. She began writing seriously whilst working at BBC television in London, England. After making award-winning documentaries, she earned an Honours degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto. 

Frances has an international profile as a Romani writer. True to the spirit of the Romani diaspora her poems, short stories, articles  have been published internationally in well regarded anthologies in Canada, U.S., U.K., Wales and Europe. Her poetry has been featured by League of Canadian Poetry’s National Poetry Month and Fresh Voices online.

Her books include Parramisha (Cinnamon Press) and The Green Man (TOPS Stanza Series). Chapters from her memoir Underground Herstories have been published in Literature for the People and the Journal of Critical Romani Studies, Central European University in Budapest. Frances was invited as guest panelist on the Gelem, Gelem — how far have we come since 1971? program as well as participating on a literary panel of Romani women writers at the World Romani Congress, 2021.

Frances has been a guest author on CBC Radio and WSRQ Radio, Sarasota. She is the Producer of radio documentary series, Watershed Writers on CKWR FM 98.5 Community Radio.

Frances lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Lauren Thomas

 is a Welsh poet whose most recent writing is in The Crank Literary Magazine, Briefly Zine, Re-side Magazine, Abridged and Green Ink Poetry. She has poetry forthcoming in Dreich’s Summer Anywhere anthology, Songs of Love and Strength by TheMumPoemPress and was winner of Poems for Trees competition with Folklore publishing. She is an MA student in Poetry Writing with Newcastle University and The Poetry School, London.

 laurenkthomas@co.uk

Twitter @laurenmywrites

Instagram @thoughtsofmanythings

-Lauren Thomas

is a Welsh poet whose most recent writing is in The Crank Literary Magazine, Briefly Zine, Re-side Magazine, Abridged and Green Ink Poetry. She has poetry forthcoming in Dreich’s Summer Anywhere anthology, Songs of Love and Strength by TheMumPoemPress and was winner of Poems for Trees competition with Folklore publishing. She is an MA student in Poetry Writing with Newcastle University and The Poetry School, London.

 laurenkthomas@co.uk

Twitter @laurenmywrites

Instagram @thoughtsofmanythings

-Val Ormrod’s

poetry has been published by Eye Flash, Hedgehog Poetry, Graffiti, Hammond House, Gloucester Writers Network and in several anthologies. In 2019 she won the Magic Oxygen International Poetry Prize and Ware Poets Open Competition, was shortlisted for the Plough Prize, Wells Festival of Literature and nominated for the Forward Prize single poem award. Her memoir In My Father’s Memory was published in 2020.

Stephen Claughton 

was interviewed by The Wombwell Rainbow in April last year. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and he reviews regularly for London Grip. This is a poem from The 3-D Clock, a pamphlet about his late mother’s dementia, which Dempsey & Windle published in 2020. Copies are available from their website here.

-Fiona Perry

was born and brought up in the north of Ireland but has lived in England, Australia, and New Zealand. Her short fiction won first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2020 and was shortlisted for the Australian Morrison Mentoring Prize in 2014 and 2015. Her flash fiction performance won second prize in the Over the Edge Fiction Slam 2021. Her poem, “Fusion”, was longlisted in the Fish Poetry Prize 2021, and she contributed poetry to the Label Lit project for National Poetry Day (Ireland) 2019. Her poetry and fiction has been published internationally in publications such as Lighthouse, Skylight47, Spontaneity, and Other Terrain. Follow her on Twitter: @Fionaperry17

Her first collection, Alchemy, is available from Turas Press (Dublin).

-Margaret Royall

is a Laurel Prize nominated poet. She has been shortlisted for several poetry prizes and won the Hedgehog Press’ collection competition 2020. She has two poetry collections:

Fording The Stream and Where Flora Sings, a memoir in prose and verse, The Road To Cleethorpes Pier and a new pamphlet, Earth Magicke out April 2021. She has been widely published online and in print, most recently: Hedgehog Press, The Blue Nib, Impspired & forthcoming in Sarasvati and Dreich.

She performs regularly at open mic events and facilitates a women’s poetry group in Nottinghamshire.

Website: https://margaretroyall.com

Twitter: RoyallMargaret

Instagram : meggiepoet

Facebook Author Page: Facebook.com/margaretbrowningroyall

Annick Yerem

lives and works in Berlin. In her dreams, she can swim like a manatee. Annick tweets @missyerem and has, to her utmost delight, been published by Pendemic, Detritus, @publicpoetry, RiverMouthReview, #PoetRhy, Anti-Heroin-Chic, Rejection Letters, Dreich, 192, The Failure Baler and Rainbow Poems. https://missyerem.wordpress.comhttps://linktr.ee/annickyerem

-Nigel Kent

is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet (2019 and 2020) and reviewer who lives in rural Worcestershire. He is an active member of the Open University Poetry Society, managing its website and occasionally editing its workshop magazine.

He has been shortlisted for several national competitions and his poetry has appeared in a wide range of anthologies and magazines. In 2019 Hedgehog Poetry Press published his first collection, ‘Saudade’, following the success of his poetry conversations with Sarah Thomson, ‘Thinking You Home’ and ‘A Hostile Environment’. In August 2020 Hedgehog Poetry Press published his pamphlet, Psychopathogen, which was nominated for the 2020 Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets and made the Poetry Society’s Winter List.

In 2021 he was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Reviewer of Literature.

To find out more visit his website: www.nigelkentpoet.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @kent_nj

-Olive M. Ritch

is a poet originally from Orkney. She was the recipient of the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2020 and in 2006, she received the Calder Prize for Poetry from the University of Aberdeen. Her work has been extensively published in literary magazines, anthologies and websites including Poetry Review, Agenda, The Guardian, New Writing Scotland, The Poetry Cure (Bloodaxe) and the Scottish Poetry Library. Her work has also been broadcast on Radio 4.

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