#AlzheimersAwarenessMonth #WorldAlzheimersMonth. The theme for World Alzheimer’s Month in 2021 is ‘Know dementia, know Alzheimer’s’. Have you created poetry/artworks/photos/short articles about Alzheimer’s. I will feature all work submitted. Please join and add to the words of Spangle McQueen, Diane Ross, and me in raiding awareness of this disease. My late grandad suffered it, and my stepmam is in a home with a severe version. I will be adding two pieces of mine

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Month in 2021 is ‘Know dementia, know Alzheimer’s’.

Alzheimers poster

Swan Lake Memories

There were seven swans
on the lake that day.
One, head down, tail up,
feeding in the mud
while we, your hand slipped
into mine, laughed
at the thought that it was mooning
us. Cygnets,
grey-brown balls of fluff,
resting on their mother’s back.
A first-time kiss and other thoughts
of future broods.

Sitting in this comfy chair
I see, in not quite real-life,
the white birds, now what are they?
A thing inside is nagging me
and, clear as day, I see a girl
giggling at an upturned bird,
and hear the sounds
and smell the Spring.
She looks a little like
the woman who looks after me,
makes drinks
and gives me pills to take.

She comes in with a mug of tea
and I gesture wordlessly
towards the screen and she
says Swans. I sigh, of course,
I should have known.
They’re important! I reply
and a small smile flits across her face.
Yes, they are and she looks sad
but another word is better;
melon?, melony?
It shows the birds are flying now,
I don’t know where, oh
those white birds, what are they?

-Tim Fellows December 31st 2019

Mancunian Insomnia 

when you bond

with the alien

that invaded your beloved’s body

become more maternal

than you could be with your

daughters

who seek comfort in the

luxury of expensive puddings

nocturnal snacks

when you fret

that he’ll feel abandoned

alone

this cocooned clone

that stole the eyes

and ate the mind

of the one

whose name we still use

to delude ourselves

when you

trace circles

round the still sturdy heart

hoping for a glimmer

of recognition

-Spangle McQueen (First published by Burning House Press https://burninghousepress.com/2018/05/25/mancunian-insomnia-by-spangle-mcqueen/

What do I Do Now?

She looked up at me innocently, her soft blue eyes with their flecks of grey widening like a small child’s. She looked so mystified and innocent that I could hardly bear it.

‘One, two, three, seventeen, twenty-four, five.. Why am I counting?’ Sometimes she was aware she had just been acting strangely, almost like someone else commenting upon the antics of a stranger.

As the disease progressed my Mother changed mood frequently, sliding in and out of tune with her ‘self’ just like one of those old fashioned radios that require fine tuning to locate the correct frequency.

Shades of the woman I knew so well were still in evidence but now a new persona was emerging. If I felt frightened by her diagnosis I cannot imagine the extent of her terror.

‘Oh it is so nice to see you!’ Betty would say every now and again when her illness gave her a well earned rest. On really good days she would say my name and that felt like winning the lottery.

I first noticed that something was very wrong when she would repeat what she had just said about twenty times over the phone. I didn’t immediately understand this was an early sign of dementia. I naively assumed that memory loss was a natural sign of old age since she was in her eighties.

Over time she stopped doing things she enjoyed. She downed her needles decisively one day, announcing that knitting gave her a headache. She did the same with watching TV and listening to the radio. We later discovered she had had TIAs during these activities but believed they had caused her to feel unwell and decided that ceasing them would protect her from illness. An increasing lack of mental and physical stimulation only exacerbated the problem and a downward spiral ensued.

You learn a lot about your own strengths and weaknesses when you care for someone with Alzheimer’s full time. Sometimes I wouldn’t manage to shower until midday. It reminded me of how life was when our children were small.. the copious cold cups of tea, barely eaten meals and lack of sleep.

The responsibility was daunting and I can honestly say looking after my Mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The experience was extremely challenging and stressful but also very humbling.

When someone you love descends into this often frightening and isolating journey it rips your world apart. The sufferer may be completely unintelligible, seem bewildered and frustrated but then out of the blue appear totally present, saying something reassuring and familiar.

My life was saved by music and poetry. By chance I discovered that the repetition of melody and rhyme possessed magical properties. Betty couldn’t remember what she had said five minutes previously but if you read the first line of a familiar poem she could recite the rest!

Poetry saved my sanity and brought me closer to my mom, who always loved it and could still recite many poems she had always loved.. and this revealed to me the miracle of poetry.

-Diane Rossi

The Unresolveables (An Heroic Crown Sonnet)

1. Sat At Tideline With
Sat at tideline with all my belongings.
Longings in belongings. No you can’t. Don’t
Wave waxing pulls my stuff, drags it. Slipping.
It can’t have it. I won’t give in. I won’t

Ripple recedes as it pulls away from me.
Then it rises, swoops like bloody murder.
Sucks at my frames, pictures of family.
Don’t remember what I’ve lost. I suffer

from losing nothing. People tell me what
I’ve lost. I’m none the wiser. I need my bag.
They steal my bag. Then help me find it. That’s
why I carry it with me. My keys they rag.

They lift up stuff, say It’s here. Discovered
My photos, my ornaments, all gathered.

2. All Gathered

My photos, my ornaments, all gathered
into me beside a sea that steals, hoards.
I painted three cat pictures. I’m mithered,
I can’t recall their names. Lose the cord.

Hoppy had only three legs. Long haired love.
In life you collect things for a reason,
then forget the reason. Heaven’s above.
I need to write stuff down. Where’s my pen gone?

My pen is in my bag. Someone’s stolen
my bag. “Let me help you look.” Says carer.
In my pile of valuables, well hidden.
What do I need my pen for? Waves closer.

We are steadfast and keen in preserving
against receding waves that keep pulling.

3. Against

against receding waves that keep pulling.
Everyday is new to me. Folk tell
me something new everyday. I’m mulling
over I belong here, here is not hell.

I have a husband who makes the tea, there
behind the counter. Folk confuse me when
they say so sorry but they need to share,
my husband is dead. They don’t make sense.

Show photos of me with a strange cute man.
I nod sweetly. Hold hands. They’re clearly mad.
Steven, my husband, bring us tea, kind and
sensitive. He goes along with their sad

news. Waves pull all value I have hoarded
all away from me, memories tethered.

4. All Away

All away from me, memories tethered
by fragility. Lacks strength of spider’s
web, or ship’s anchor rope. Stranger blethered
I have two sons. One no longer with us.

Competitive. Aspired. One capricious.
Dead. Blue and white rope he used. My son, Brave.
Bravest he ever was. Wouldn’t let us
hug him. Let me put my hands on his brave

shoulders. Then he pushed away. As if to
say I’m strong enough to stand on my own.
Isn’t that brave? You know he had blue
and white rope round his neck. He was known

as brilliant yachtsman. Memories slipped
by my frantic grasp to prevent their drift.

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?

7. I Find Myself

How did I find myself here, a spindrift?
Not enough tea in this. It’s just water.
Sugar. Can you put more sugar in it?
What’s your name? Thankyou. That tastes much better.

I need the loo. Can you help me? Always
somebody screams in here. You like my hat?.
I need the loo. Where you going? Away?
O, I know her she’s nice. Yes, love. Toilet.

She’s screaming again. I’m going to lie
down on my bed, love. Will you stay with me?
My clothes no longer fit. They need to buy
me more, that aren’t so tight. I like pretty.

Carried coal in on his back. My father.
Water’s edge or earth’s end? Which is kinder?

8. Edge or Earth’s

“Water’s edge or earth’s end? Which is kinder?
What do words mean? Getting more like pictures.
What are they showing me? What is this for?
A pen. What do you do with it? Mixtures

of tiny lines. That’s pretty.” Because she
can’t write, but enjoys the sounds I’m making
these verses up for her. I read so she
can listen, recording what she’s saying.

I have to report how she interacts
with other people in here. Make sure she
takes her medication else, she’ll fall back
and her condition worsen more quickly.

Sentences she says really get to me:
“Only strangers now, who say they know me.”

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”

11. Nowhere

“They have photos. It looks like me, Nowhere”
We try to make it somehow like a home
from home. An opportunity to share
their past lives. Their fresh animated tone

the event is in the here and now for
them. It is never them for us. We use
first names all the time. Hold it in great store
as a family. Our wordsmith we’ll choose

to call Pam taps her shoulders when she talks
of her dad who would carry packed sackfuls
of coal on his back. Pam when she slow walks
with you steadies herself against her falls.

Always walk pace of slowest ones. She roars:
“I can recall. How did I reach these shores?”

12. These Shores

“I can recall. How did I reach these shores?”
Pam was transferred from an emergency
care place, after neighbour saw her outdoors
pacing her front garden. Community

welfare came out with police to remove
her, as a danger to herself and others.
Her late husband had already been moved
into a respite place to recover.

She had not been taking the drugs prescribed,
so rapid decline inevitable.
Back on regular medication, slide
to a lower plateau less possible.

We can slow the process, not stop decline.
“Did I come to this place with things of mine?”

13. I Come to

“Did I come to this place with things of mine?”
Powered attorneys brought Pam’s belongings,
her husband having died in the meantime.
Soon, all will be unbelongings.

Belonging only in the heads of those
who knew her. She will leave her words, art:
sketches she made of her three cats of whose
names: Hoppy and Missy, she knew by heart.

It is sad to talk of someone living
as if they have already passed away.
Some relatives are shocked to find filling
body of one they knew is a strangers gaze.

Professional, you can’t help get close: her rhyme:
“Is that wave for mine? Is it now my time?”

14. Wave For

“Is that wave for mine? Is it now my time?”
Pam talks of ocean as taker away
of value she’s gathered on the shoreline.
Unaware others are with her each day.

A strange time for all, when keen avoidance
of others has been the key to our health.
We have felt loss sharply, hugs and street dance,
a dosey do, a time outside ourselves.

Locked in Pam is a stranger to all this,
perhaps she has noted the extra cleaning,
masks so she can’t see our smiling faces.
Her world smaller, stranger each new morning.

I’ll leave the final words to her: she sings
“Sat at tideline with all my belongings.”

15. The Unresolvables

Sat at tideline with all my belongings.
My photos, my ornaments, all gathered
against receding waves that keep pulling
all away from me, memories tethered

by my frantic grasp to prevent their drift
into forgottenness. They are reminders.
How did I find myself here, a spindrift?
Water’s edge or earth’s end? Which is kinder?

Only strangers now, who say they know me.
Hold my hand, take me down long corridors.
They have photos. It looks like me, Nowhere
I can recall. How did I reach these shores?

Did I come to this place with things of mine?
Is that wave for mine? Is it now my time?

-Paul Brookes (First published in Fevers of the Mind https://feversofthemind.com/2021/05/17/the-unresolveables-an-heroic-crown-sonnet-sequence-by-paul-brookes/

The Day My Grandad Disappeared 

A knock at our front door. A Doctor has brought Grandad home. Grandad has gone into a Doctors believing he has an appointment.

Grandad goes for a paper, for the footie pages. As he does everyday, dressed immaculately, jacket, waistcoat, tie, black shoes shining.

Nana and he arrive a couple of days ago to help Dad again in caring for Mam, who is fighting Breast Cancer. Always a quiet man. Keeps himself to himself. Even when I am a child and we go to see the latest James Bond he says very little. He talks footie but I am not into that. He does Littlewoods Pools and Spot the Ball.

He comes in from sorting at the Post Office, walks through the lounge door, bangs the door with one hand as his other hand grabs his nose and laughs. He is good, we laugh too.

Grandad is very late. Grandad left three hours ago. Nana wants to call local hospitals fearing he has been knocked down. Dad drives around the village, pops into the newsagents. Grandad has not bought his paper.

My grandad suffers illnesses. Among my late Nanas belongings I discover a note he has written.

Ellesmere Port.    Pneumonia May     1942 Dec 1942

When I had been in the army a year my health began to deteriate  I had Pneumonia twice in six months The last time I almost lost my life They sent for my wife and sat with me alnight  When I was twenty two I had mumps in hospital again I was never rid of styes in my eyes having to go in hospital again as Both my eyes closed. Had pains in my Back although I didn’t go in hospital I was put on light duties for a fortnight When I was on leave I saw my own doctor who gave me injection in my Back I have a disabled Badge in my car and  am under hospital care as an outpatient for my stomach another specialist for my chest.

The note appears to have been written sometime later, perhaps as evidence for a new doctor.

In a 1993 poetry anthology ‘Rats For Love:The Book’ my poem ‘Bait’ describes the banter between Nana and Grandad. It describes how she felt about his forgetfulness before he was diagnosed:

Married forty years to the same man. Ate with her mouth open. Talked with her mouth full. Masticated his forgetfulness through two romantic lovers between the pages. Cut with some bloodless cold steel then tongued from cheek to cheek morsels of his past with her: Who lost his false teeth … … Ieft his pipe on the bin lid outside … kept new clothes unwrapped for years … did not like driving in the dark … ? She levered chewed events from good teeth, pushed them down to the acid below through shredding walls to feed blood and bile that formed into words goading him to grab the bait. And when he did she hauled him in to be filleted, iced and sold to others as good quality food to be eaten.

The title is a play on words that is not made obvious in the poem. My Nana is born in Sunderland and the North East dialect word for food is ‘bait.’

Especially after Mam dies of Cancer, Grandad gradually forgets how to care for himself. Nana looks after him until it gets too much for her too.

 Nana buys packs of incontinence pants as Grandad loses control of his bowels. She puts new ones on, bins the old. Grandad does not help, as on one of many occasions he gets into bed, soils himself, takes off the pants while in bed, and throws them on the bedroom floor soiled side down.

A large man Nana has to bath him, then try to get him out of the bath when he will not move.

He has spells in local care homes, gradually stays longer and longer. A respite for Nana.

Nana ensures he has what she calls ‘decent’ clothes in his suitcase, each piece of clothing painstakingly labelled with his name. When he returns home she is forever phoning the homes about someone elses clothes in the returned suitcase. On one occasion, Grandad walks five miles from Care home to Nana’s.

Last time I see Grandad my wife and I treat both him and Nana to a Sunday pub lunch at Knox Arms. A  stone built pub about two miles from Nanas.

Nana dresses Grandad immaculately, razor sharp trouser creases, spotless shirt, waistcoat, matching tie  Throughout, our visit Grandad never speaks. We order a Taxi to the pub. At the Knox, Nana tucks a paper napkin into Grandad’s shirt, and when it arrives cuts his roast dinner up for him. Nana talks throughout about daily problems with Grandads incontinence pads and staff in the homes, the uselessness of Social Services. On the walk home I notice Grandads waistcoat and shirt gravy stained and ribbons of carrot cling to the underside of his lip.

I search his eyes for recognition of who I am, from the time I say hello to the time I say goodbye to him sat in his favourite chair at Nanas. My Grandad has disappeared..

-Paul Brookes

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