-Dementia Has Dad by Stevie Mitchell
DEMENTIA HAS DAD
This is called ‘Dementia Has Dad’, by INKY CONDITIONS. I made these drawings in late 2017. Dad had not long gone into residential care. These daft and disoriented thoughts were what we were left with as a family. Trivial and massive unknowns and worries. Adjustments and anxieties. I later shared the drawings at art fairs and they opened up such sad but strength-giving conversations with strangers. So many people in this same situation. The little stuff that looms so large when dementia happens to families. I am grateful to have been able then to have recorded this in black and white.
AS PRECIOUS AND SPECIAL
When my Dad died last year some people had the delicious sensitivity to suggest, because he had dementia, that it might’ve been a blessing. The years of Dad’s illness were in their way precious and special to me as a son. I miss him exactly as he was then, just as at any time.
The Value of Knowledge
Nelson knows a lot, more than many,
about the Chosin Reservoir,
about December of 1950.
He’s there now, once more, again,
on this May afternoon,
this unseasonably hot,
deceivingly beautiful day
in a commuter suburb of Chicago.
Today we will study Korea, children.
The South is our friend,
the North no one’s comrade.
Yes, I know: Love one another.
Please don’t ever forget those words,
even if you remember nothing else.
I’ve brought you some kimchi fried rice,
some Binggrae banana milk:
You’ll recognize the taste,
but likely not the mix of Hanja and Hangul
wrapped around the bottle.
Nelson doesn’t know about missing toes,
the phantom strike of midnight pain
mimicking frostbite in a fool’s sunshine
that won’t stop fresh piss from icing.
He doesn’t know about missing friends,
their not waking in the snow,
them not getting up after the sniper,
the artillery round, the soulless cold.
In the world he occupies right now,
despite the presence of family right here,
these things are only beginning.
Today, at recess, you will not fear the airplanes
coming to O’Hare and Midway;
we’ll study him and there another time.
You won’t think twice, perhaps not once,
about the backfire and rattle of a truck.
Until then, please pay attention.
These are lessons Nelson wrote for you.
If you get drowsy on this fine May day,
I promise not to slam my hand,
surely not the classroom yardstick,
on the surface of your desk.
-Lennart Lundh (This poem first appeared on the Illinois State Poetry Society web site in August, 2017.)
Raanana, March 9, 2018
Just suppose instead of dying
You kept on living.
You get to keep your mind
But it’s unconnected to any other
Living man or woman’s view of reality.
In your reality the dead you loved
Go on living,
Doing what they always did.
It’s the living loved ones disappoint you
With their separate realities
Not including you in their trips to the beach
Or family dinners
Since frankly your grotesqueness scares the kids.
No, the dead never disappoint.
They call each day
And take you out to lunch.
The place you worked,
Though long shut down,
Still employs you
And your old home where you grew up,
Though long sold to someone else,
Still waits for your return.
But sometimes they do disappoint,
Even the dead,
Like last week when
Mama and your sisters stopped calling you
And no one living gave you their numbers
So you could check that they’re ok
And you thought that they were mad at you,
It made you cry,
You hadn’t wronged them that you knew.
Some days are good
And some are bad
When you live with the dead and the living,
But you can’t see
The time you occupy
Has calved like some ice floe
From the world,
Maybe that’s a blessing.
Sue Proffitt has written wonderful preface to her book. This is a small extract:
Here is another poem from her book:
“People are always surprised,”
I remember you telling me once,
“when I say how old you are.”
Well, not as surprised as I am,
but why would they think that, Mum?
Were you lying about your own age,
the way you deceived yourself
about how old you looked?
Or was it the habit you had
of referring to us as “the children”,
even though my sister and I
have grown-up kids of our own.
It was always “the” children, too,
rather than “my” children.
Whose issue we were
apparently wasn’t the issue
so much as minority.
You a nonagenarian now
and the two of us still in our nonage?
Who’s going to fall for that?
You just didn’t want to let go.
Only now that you’ve lost your grip
on things in general,
do I know what it’s like to feel free.
When sometimes you look at me
like a stranger you recognise,
but somehow can’t quite place
and think it’s rude to say,
my feeling is one of relief.
What might be a bad day for you
is bound to be better for me —
you were always polite to strangers.
(First published in “The 3-D Clock”, Dempsey & Windle, 2020)
9. Only Strangers Now
“Only strangers now, who say they know me.”
She says. I don’t want to add to her words,
only take away some if she lets me.
Her talk blooms with allusion, mystery.
Her son says she has books by Rod Mckuen,
“Listen to the Warm” , Russian Yevgeny
Yevtushenko, “Selected Poems”. When
I mention names, she has no memory.
She sings “The sun has got his hat on. Hip,
hip, hooray. The sun has got his hat on.”
One hand on top of her summer hat lifts
it in time so it flops to the rhythm.
Other times gentleness is hers, and yours
“Hold my hand, take me down long corridors.”
10. Hold My Hand, Take Me
“Hold my hand, take me down long corridors.”
All patients are locked in permanently.
Each has their own en-suite room and their doors
only open to their key cards. Toiletries
are extra fees we access from accounts
set up by their loved ones. Sometimes we ask
for relatives to bring in more clothes. Counts
If we can email, text or phone with facts.
Loved ones updated with latest virus
news, how can visit after negative
test result. Before, windows clean glass
to see them through. We think/act positive.
She waits for them while we show we care.
“They have photos. It looks like me, Nowhere”
Bios and Links
I want to show my stories simply, but at the same time in an unexpected way…
He is a Derbyshire-based artist and illustrator creating captioned drawings, fragments of stories and uncanny happenings, presented under the collective banner, INKY CONDITIONS. He works with ink and brush and some deliberately lo-grade technology. Amongst a playfulness, themes of personal loss emerge. Part therapy: a loving and cathartic catalogue of everyday life – and death.
Stevie shows and sells INKY CONDITIONS work at arts trails and fairs across Derbyshire and Staffordshire, including the Wirksworth Festival. Alongside this, he works as an independent commercial illustrator, making useful drawings for beer branding, businesses, and for Barnsley Museums, including visitor guides and poetry anthologies.
Instagram & Twitter: @mitchsteve / #inkyconditions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Instagram : meggiepoet
Facebook Author Page: Facebook.com/margaretbrowningroyall
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.com. https://linktr.ee/annickyerem
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.