One of the poems in this anthology is by my close friend, Dave Parsons. Like all writers, in this collection, Dave speaks with tenderness and honesty, and in doing so, each helps us better understand the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease. Dave’s reading of “They” is one of the clips in the video posted herein. Read his poem, then listen to his reading at the University of St. Thomas.
Leonard Cohn has written,
“There is a crack, a crack, in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
These writers use the cracks in this dark disease to let in the light.
by Dave Parsons
for Harry Dazey
Now that we know that Harry has Alzheimer’s
we catch ourselves wondering out loud
about our own memories, searching
for the small void in our understanding
of time’s continuum. The cruel wound
that delicately as some evil surgeon unseals
the mute gray bindings that hold
ineffably the inventory of a life
stuns us with facial expressions, not unlike his
as he turns his bent spade, again and again,
like some blind farmer through
the rough weed-filled furrows
of recollection and recognition.
At the Garden Café, Ruth stately still,
rotely asks him in that wifely way:
Would you like tea or coffee, Harry?
Harry, do you want tea . . . or coffee?
. . . then the realization . . . oh . . . oh, give him tea.
An acquaintance happens by the table,
and Ruth graciously, dutifully introduces her
to Harry, who, as always, smiles affably
and responds, I am not really here,
you know. Later, I accompany him
to the men’s room, where he becomes confused
and begins to wash his hands before entering
the small dark stall with its endless
roll of blank white sheets of paper.
Standing before the sink, he stares
with what appears to be rapt erudition into the mirror
and whispers in the familiar, gentle fatherly tone,
He wants to come back you know,; he wants to comeback
and they — they want let him.
“They is for my late father-in-law, Harry Dazey, who was on that awful precipice
clinging to his still conscious world, but finding mostly those insidious “blank whites pages”
when the incident that was the catalyst to the poem occurred. As I have
always said, Harry composed the poem; I just wrote it down for him.
To experience the slow loss of brain function before death
is to become disconnected from the sound of the tree
that falls in the forest. No longer able to ponder the
questions of our existence, rendering silent the
sound to others who will listen beyond the silence.
Still, somewhere in the forest a tree falls
and others continue to collect the sounds
so that no one will forget that there was a time
when your existence recorded the sounds of silence.
It is the nature of poetry to help us understand adversity.
For the poet, Holly Hughes writing about Alzheimer’s disease
helped her deal with the experience of being a caregiver
for her mother who was one of over five million people
in the US with Alzheimer’s. The experience inspired her
to gather and edit a collection of poems and prose, titled,
“Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease.”
On two evenings in November 2009, Holly Hughes and others
read poetry and prose from her anthology, on the campuses
of the University of St. Thomas and Lone Star College – Montgomery.
All proceeds from book sales went to the Alzheimer’s Association of South Texas.
Images and Video by kenne
(First Posted November 8, 2009)