Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DEMENTIA WARD ABSOLUTIONS


I arrive at lunchtime,
and make my familiar
way to the third
floor of the nursing home:
the dementia ward.

There’s that peculiar
smell of bad food
and scrambled minds
in decomposing bodies.

My mother in the corner,
crumpled in her
wheelchair, a grape past
in a raisin present,
out of it, out of
it now for many years,
sailing farther out
at each visit, floating
to oblivion. 

I try to feed her,
coax her into
opening her mouth. 
“Here comes the airplane,”
I say cheerfully, aiming a spoon
filled with mush at
her tightly clenched jaw.

She rejects most of
my attempts at giving
her sustenance. She is
wise, dementia be damned,
and is determined to escape
the ruins of her corporeality.
But I keep trying
to keep her body going.
Wouldn't you?
Would you?
The dining room is filled with
bodies moaning, jerking,
shuffling, snuffling, slipping 
farther and closer
toward and away.

One at my mother’s
table is built like a tank.
She eat and eats, keeping
up a steady blather of
invectives aimed at
no one in particular.

I know this one, she 
has an old plastic baby 
that she cradles in 
her powerful arms
at all times.
If you take it away
she'll screech
a terrible song
of a mother scorned. 

Today something has happened
to her baby. The nurses, 
out of desperation, 
gave her a rolled up
sheet to hold instead.

She doesn’t seem to mind, holds
onto the bundle for dear life,
cooing at it and giving it
the full force of her
demented mother love.

With her other hand she keeps
pawing at my mother’s
tray and shoving the table at
my mother’s withered legs.
I try to fend her off, keep the table
steady with one hand
and spoon-open that
clenched jaw with the other. 

I’m surprised at
the tank’s strength, 
she overwhelms me, 
and the table and tray
keep jerking and I
keep failing at
feeding my mother.

The t.v. on the wall
flickers mutely with the image
of an orange baboon
waving a short finger,
promising blood and glory
delivered on a gold tray
for the good ol’
you ess of ay.

And then--a miracle!
A body, stretched on a reclining
wheelchair, begins
a reedy litany, loud
enough to be heard
across the room:
HELP ME,
HELP ME,
HELP ME 
which goes on and on
and on.

This is the perfect
choral accompaniment
to this mad scene, but unlike in
the movie AMADEUS,
there’s no Salieri
waving a desiccated
finger to absolve us all;
instead, the orange baboon’s
finger is waving to
dissolve us all.

I rejoice and silently
join the HELP ME chant,
I happily go
temporarily insane,
while I try to feed my
mother, fend off the tank’s
advances, and ignore
the orange baboon’s image
flickering on the device
that gave him the 
power to put us all
in the dementia ward.

Perhaps we’re already there.
Perhaps we've never left.

I absolve my mother
HELP ME
I absolve myself
HELP ME
I absolve you
HELP ME
I absolve the orange baboon
HELP ME
I absolve us all




  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

POEMS TO FORGET



Empty mind
filling empty time.
Haydn on the radio.


***

I prefer the company
of my cat to
the company of pretty
much anyone
else.

***

Keep typing,
maybe a miracle
will happen and
this poem will
end.

***

Slowly decomposing
while composing
this poem.


***

Little Pushkin,
someone yelled
from a rowboat.
Meaning me, little
me, 5 years old standing
on a bridge somewhere
in St. Petersburg, with
wild curly hair and
skin too pale for
Pushkin.
Malenkiy Pushkin!




Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leaks: Natural, Human & Mechanical

Raining in New York,
and I've got a bad cold to
welcome the New Year.
The bedroom radiator hisses
and suddenly breaks, 
leaking almost as much
as my nose. 

I run down to the Greek landlady
who lives downstairs.
She oohs and aahs, in
a Greek kind of way--
they invented tragedy, after
all--and tells me
she'll call someone
to fix it. 

An hour later
the heating guy
shows up with
a bevy of minions.
"I've got the whole team
for you," he says after complaining
about climbing three flights
of stairs.
"Only for you," he adds.
For emphasis, I presume.

He wheezes and huffs,
says he's about to have
a heart attack. 
In jest, I presume
and hope.

The minions stand around
my bedroom, ogling the dusty books
and posters, as the wheezer
bends down with creaking knees
and adjusts a valve
to stop the leak. 

Well shit, I think, 
why couldn't I have
done that myself?
And who, pray tell,
will fix my nose and stop
the rain?

Poem in Lieu of a Phone Call

In lieu of a phone call,
this poem just to 
tell you that
I'm really not good
on the phone.

Don't like to talk on
that contraption
that much, if at all,
at least not today
or most days, really.

"Hi, how are you?
How's life?"
And then, "Great" 
or "Good," or "Lousy," or
just "Okay." 

Pedestrian sentences
leaving mouths
faster than thoughts,
bouncing off satellites,
flying through all kinds 
of walls.

Of course I want to
talk to you. That's a given.
But the phone, the fucking phone
steals all the magic
and distorts whatever poetry
we have left after
all these years of
breathing.

Imagine talking to a 
cat on the phone. Ain't
gonna work. Not because
the cat cannot speak,
but because
it's not there.

So here I am,
and there you are,
and we will meet
soon, and talk and talk,
and plant that magic bean
that will sprout and
help us climb
a little higher on 
the evolutionary scale.

But for now, please
accept this poem
in lieu of a phone
call, and forgive
my crotchety distaste for
modern conveniences.

I think I'll go and 
have a word or 
two with my cat, 
who doesn't care at all
about evolutionary scales,
satellites, magic beans,
or poetry.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Business of Business

Drove up to Boston yesterday,
alone, just sitting and
adjusting the wheel
for 4 hours.

Kept the radio off; the rattling of
the car and the whoosh
of passing cars opening up
a space for not thinking.

Today training for a new
job. One must eat and
pay the rent.
Poems just pay the soul.

Big shiny building in
Kendall Square, Cambridge,
a city I used to know well
but no longer recognize.

They say we get a new set of
atoms every 7 years, 
essentially becoming entirely
new. 

So with cities, I suppose; 
whether it takes 7 or 20 years,
sooner or later they all become 
different places from the ones
we remember.

Squeezing this poem in
while my trainer makes
an important call. 
A business call,
of course. 

It’s all business all
the time. Business must go on,
eating into time faster than 
people or cities can replace
their atoms.

You need a strong soul to 
survive this business of
business, the gentle and not
so gentle art of getting
value out of...what, exactly?

But I think I’ll 
be alright if I 
keep up with the poems,
keeping the business of 
business out of my
business.