Caregiving Poem #1 (1 June 2012)
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.
But last night I dreamed of a white-sashed
window fading into
a white wall.
Invisible bandage, stiffening.
Caregiving Poem #2 (2 June 2012)
AFTER HER MRI
She is fierce as she tells me about
“the dungeon” —
its bed of stones
In her version there’s no
Her upper world with me —
what version of it did she leave inside
that dungeon, charred
upon its ceiling?
Caregiving Poem #3 (3 June 2012)
ILLEGAL IN MASSACHUSETTS
I wake startled — what’s that trouble
I hear? Pistols? Wires sizzling?
I check a clock (2:30am) and hurry to a window.
above the trees — the red & white microbeads
of fire crackers!
My mother doesn’t rouse.
She’s been ordered to sleep
on her back
between two pillows.
I’m a child again, smiling, eyes widening
at the magic show
any upright adult would disallow.
Caregiving Poem #4 (4 June 2012)
My heart’s outta shape
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.
When my mother calls from the next room
for my assistance,
I take my pulse,
cool myself down, down within
Caregiving Poem # 5 (5 June 2012)
on the x-ray image.
(opinion of hospital)
She doesn’t wear any dentures.
(opinion of her daughters)
Caregiving Poem # 6 (6 June 2012)
On my one day of respite
I drive home to Frank for an afternoon.
And then for fajitas
at Salsa Latina.
After 24 years of marriage,
he gets to taste the hot sauce
the dinner date.
Caregiving Poem # 7 (7 June 2012)
IN THE DOCTOR’S WAITING ROOM
There’s a fish tank as huge as a sarcophagus.
As I wait for my mother, I diagnose
That skittish sunfish slapping against the glass:
The broad-backed bug-eyed giant:
That dazed and aimless exotica:
Below fish, those putrid-pink perforated
coral, shells, and scallops:
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.
Caregiving Poem # 8 (8 June 2012)
HELMET of STORIES
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.
Caregiving Poem # 9 (9 June 2012)
STEPS FOR GENTLY REMOVING A SOCK
FROM YOUR MOTHER’S AGING FOOT
Fold over (approximately 2 inches) the sock’s top hem.
The result is a new, lower top hem.
Repeat Step One.
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.)
With the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, pinch the sock’s toe.
(CAUTION: Do not pinch the mother’s toe.)
Using both hands, slide off the sock with one slow, smooth motion.
Marvel at the likenesses of your mother’s aging
to your own.
Repeat Step Six.
Caregiving Poem # 10 (10 June 2012)
BECAUSE I MISS MY CAT…
…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.