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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Caregiving Poems # 17

My latest poem in a caregiving series is below. It is a response to my current duties tending to my mother, age 82, in her apartment. After dinner, my mother and I sit together and read books. The poem below was influenced by my reading of “Leaves Compared with Flowers” by Robert Frost.
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“Late in life I have come on fern.”

~Robert Frost
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Late in life my mother comes to pure green
organic, all natural, back-to-basics.
Spring water, HE laundry soap, socks woven
from local wool. With ammonia-dyed hair-do’s
I’m the heathen of her latterday Eden.
She scolds me (yuck!) with countless studies
reported by the health shows, but to no avail.
Every morning, heedless as a ficus
I down instant coffee, mug after mug, sugar packet
after sugar packet. She forgets that as a child
I’d been taken for too many years in a row to Easter
baskets stuffed with plastic yellow grass
and jelly beans. And to birthday cupcakes
every June, toppling with hot red candies.
And to summer after summer of purple popsicles.
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Caregiving Poems # 16

My latest poem in a “Caregiving” series is below. It is a response to my current duties tending to my mother who must wear a cervical collar after tripping on a sidewalk, being hospitalized, experiencing an MRI, learning to use a walker and cane, and returning to her apartment near Boston, MA.

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Caregiving Poem #16 (drafted June 18-22)
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AGAINST GRAIN
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Walls of her flat too cramped to let long twin wings
of her aged pine table be often elevated, lifted by hand
then parked horizontal with four blocks of wood. Twice
a year at most she’d raise a single side for stacks
of wrapped gifts, paper napkins, five extra forks.
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In her house of two stairwells she covered table neatly
with Irish linen, set down gold-rimmed plates, tucked
under one wing her three combed girls. They swung
crossed feet, watched Grandfather carve and piece her
dark hen. For that scion of carpenters, blades precise.
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This month, mounds of urgencies — dislodged spine
manuals and diagrams, bills, datebooks blotched
in garish yellow pen  — force both table wings up
at cross-purposes. Her guest closet, blocked. Blocked,
her own hips. How to pass from indecent end to end?
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Caregiving Poems # 11-15

My June poems are below. They are responses to my current duties tending to my mother who must wear a cervical collar after tripping on a sidewalk, being hospitalized, experiencing an MRI, learning to use a walker, and returning to her apartment near Boston, MA.

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Caregiving Poem # 11 (drafted June 11 to 15)

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THE GROUNDSKEEPERS
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I say a few words of Spanish
to the men who trim bushes that edge
my mother’s unit.
With all due regard
they smile & nod, resume
their labors.
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In much the same way my mother
nods & smiles
as soon as I mention polite
alternatives — affordable housing,
Meals-on-Wheels, Sunday visitors.
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At night in her chair she bows head
and whispers to the pink bead
of her rosary — Ave Maria
her old mother tongue
I fail to understand.
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Caregiving Poem # 12 (drafted June 11 to 15)
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OUR RECOVERIES
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Comes a softer afternoon she wants to open
all windows.
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Comes a day she’s limber enough
to walk unaided from bed to chair,
chatter straight through nap hour.
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She tells stories about her beau,
my father before I knew him —
his dandy days at Parson’s in New York City,
her green gown that caught his eye.
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Comes a moment she yearns to share
a common memory:
……………………………that day in 1981
when her oldest daughter donned
a graduation gown
not six weeks past
her husband’s death.
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Comes as always the relapse
of my silence. Why
is her daughter
still not ready to relieve?
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Caregiving Poem # 13 (drafted June 11 to 15)
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O.T. and P.T.
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Our agency gals might well have been Nebraska-
born and bred, their arms so long and prairie-strong.
They take kindly to my Mom, make allowances
for her child-sized frame. Like two summer band
baton captains, they balance and twirl the legs
of aluminum walkers, shower seats, rubber-tipped canes.
They tinker briskly for height, weight, stance, range.
Thus bedazzled, my mother sees little merit
in the star-studded team I watch on her TV,
Oklahoma fellers taller than her ceiling, passing balls
behind their backs, sprinting for alley-oops,
somehow landing flat on their enormous feet.
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Caregiving Poem # 14 (drafted June 11 to 15)
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! CUIDADO ! — ! MOJADO !
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Appeasing her fears, my secret catchphrase
is: “Caution! — Wet!”
Water, her nemesis.
Anything slippery, chilly, soggy, germ-iferous.
Tiles, towel racks, doorknobs, sponges, sweat socks.
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I won’t tell her about my secret pleasure
at her kitchen window — watching the dawn’s
lawn sprinklers spray
in tandem, soaking every single blade of grass.
Rainbows arcing above the sewer hatch.
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Caregiving Poem # 15 (drafted June 11 to 15)
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POETRY IS “LITTLE SCRAPS OF WISDOM”
~ Robert Frost
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I must search my mother’s rooms
to pilfer old keys
and key signatures on old certificates:
Lawyer A, Agent B, Bureaucrat C.
My assignment, collate and label
pettinesses of The Commonwealth.
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While at it I seek evidence of
poems or Poetry.  I find plenty
in countless slips of paper scattered across
dressers, desks, counters, tables —
“Lest-Ye-Forget” notes, scribbled.
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Mail out birthday cards.
Call cousin.
Show grandsons a funny clipping.
Donate to the clergy fund.
Tell Frank, “I do thank you!”
Visit the sick and homebound.
Return all borrowed books on time.
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Caregiving Poems # 1-10

My June poems are below. They are responses to my current duties tending to my mother who must wear a cervical collar after tripping on a sidewalk, being hospitalized, experiencing an MRI, learning to use a walker, and returning to her apartment near Boston, MA.

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Caregiving Poem #1 (1 June 2012)
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MONITORS
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Wednesday I stood vigilant
over dots and half-dashes
in full red.
Teams of nurses worked round-the-clock
to leave no traces
of balm or ill.
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But last night I dreamed of a white-sashed
window fading into
a white wall.
Invisible bandage, stiffening.
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Caregiving Poem #2 (2 June 2012)
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AFTER HER MRI
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She is fierce as she tells me about
“the dungeon” —
its bed of stones
underwater tortures
infernal voices.
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In her version there’s no
self-pity or
self-mercy.
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Her upper world with me —
what version of it did she leave inside
that dungeon, charred
upon its ceiling?
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Caregiving Poem #3 (3 June 2012)
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ILLEGAL IN MASSACHUSETTS
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I wake startled — what’s that trouble
I hear? Pistols? Wires sizzling?
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I check a clock (2:30am) and hurry to a window.
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Flashes, flickers
above the trees — the red & white microbeads
of fire crackers!
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My mother doesn’t rouse.
She’s been ordered to sleep
on her back
between two pillows.
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2:31am.
I’m a child again, smiling, eyes widening
at the magic show
any upright adult would disallow.
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Caregiving Poem #4 (4 June 2012)
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ROUTINES
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My heart’s outta shape
for this
so
while my mother rehearses her new routines
at the bathroom sink, toilet, tub
I adapt old ones:
on her couch I do my sit-ups;
on her rug, my push-ups;
in her kitchen, my lunges from fridge to window.
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When my mother calls from the next room
for my assistance,
I take my pulse,
cool myself down, down within
normal.
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Caregiving Poem # 5 (5 June 2012)
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SECOND OPINIONS
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Her dentures
left marks
on the x-ray image.
(opinion of hospital)
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**
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She doesn’t wear any dentures.
(opinion of her daughters)
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Caregiving Poem # 6 (6 June 2012)
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CONJUGAL VISIT
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On my one day of respite
I drive home to Frank for an afternoon.
And then for fajitas
at Salsa Latina.
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After 24 years of marriage,
he gets to taste the hot sauce
before
the dinner date.
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Caregiving Poem # 7 (7 June 2012)
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IN THE DOCTOR’S WAITING ROOM
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There’s a fish tank as huge as a sarcophagus.
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As I wait for my mother, I diagnose
pathologies.
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That skittish sunfish slapping against the glass:
Claustrophobia.
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The broad-backed bug-eyed giant:
Goiter.
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That dazed and aimless exotica:
Amnesia.
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Below fish, those putrid-pink perforated
coral, shells, and scallops:
Osteoporosis.
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And at bottom — multicolored chips
and pebbles as numerous as all the pills,
capsules, gel-caps, and tablets I’ll need
for all my decades of dementia.
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Caregiving Poem # 8 (8 June 2012)
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HELMET of STORIES
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Her head on the mattress
is as small as a squire’s.
By instinct I lean over
to kiss the brow, but
by reflex she interrupts.
“Did I ever tell you
about that time when
I was teaching in Voorheesville and…”
A distant land,
her distant past which she defends
with a youth’s allegiance.
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Caregiving Poem # 9 (9 June 2012)
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STEPS FOR GENTLY REMOVING A SOCK
FROM YOUR MOTHER’S AGING FOOT
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Step One.
Fold over (approximately 2 inches) the sock’s top hem.
The result is a new, lower top hem.
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Step Two.
Repeat Step One.
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Step Three.
With the thumb and forefinger of your right hand, pinch the top hem near the sock’s heel.
(CAUTION: Do not pinch the mother’s heel.)
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Step Four.
With the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, pinch the sock’s toe.
(CAUTION: Do not pinch the mother’s toe.)
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Step Five.
Using both hands, slide off the sock with one slow, smooth motion.
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Step Six.
Marvel at the likenesses of your mother’s aging
naked foot
to your own.
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Step Seven.
Repeat Step Six.
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Caregiving Poem # 10 (10 June 2012)
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BECAUSE I MISS MY CAT…
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…the eight amber pill bottles
soaking in an orange bowl,
empty and capless and label-less,
shorn of all but white streaks
of sticky glue,
look to me like a litter
of marmalade kittens
not yet born,
bobbing in their mother’s womb.
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END