Tag Archives: Dementia

The Stigma of Dementia

Iris Murdoch, once thought to be one of the most brilliant/intelligent woman in Britain has seen her reputation slump somewhat.

There are a host of interconnected reasons for this, but her well-documented descent into dementia (watching the Teletubbies happily etc.) has not helped.

I cannot do other than believe if she had walked into the River Ouse with her pockets full of stones her brand would now be different.

Better to burn out (or car crash or overdose or disappear in some unexplained manner) than to fade away.

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Untitled midnight

At the stroke of midnight
I have little about today to say
thinking only and gently
of the demented men

who are not so much confused
by the absence only we see in them
(and thus they cannot see it)
but more puzzled.

The imagined tiredness
of a world they cannot get out of
the boundaries
like all of these universes

which still have the limits
we impose upon them
to in any way make them tangible
or even briefly capable of description.

How can we consider that which isn’t
in our own realm of self or space?
A mighty frustration
goaded by our own sense of significance.

The grand secret is that we are nothing
but the blindness of our emotions
which provide us with the walls
and the steadying illusion to keep alive to the last.

If only the impersonal value
of non-existence could be made known to us
and understood not just felt
but instead the connections between us

mother and son and on and on
keep us unfree but laced
in slivers of possibility
which is sometimes the midnight

of nothing left but the certainty
tomorrow I will not think of this
any further but instead stare
at the equivalent

of a familiar
whose name
is now
lost.

Untitled (theories of memory)

[Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food. ~Austin O’Malley]

Memory, strange true helix of the self
holding back while flooding forth
giving birth to the unremembered
conspiring to bring warmth
heartbreak, guilt and pride

An imperfect storage device
that, in extremis, can be blanked
erased, overwritten, but for the most part
struggles on despite the damage its mainframe acquires

Memory is our conversational friend
the hall monitor of conscience
we have installed beside it
and the guidebook as to pain previously incurred
or inflicted. The fear of one
and the folly of the other

It enlarges as it decays
and in most retains its oldest files
while losing data from the documents of just yesterday.
It can be as selfish and partial as any of us
preferring faces or prejudiced against numbers.
It can hold poetry, beauty and love
alongside ugliness, death and hate
without, apparently, surrendering to madness.

We treasure it, curse it, change and deny it
conspire against it and call it wrong.
It exists, in most of us, without cure
tending or ministration.
It is all of us now gone.
A collection increasing as our days here diminish.

 

 

Restorational (us, later)

An eighty-five year old man
with a bowling ball in his hand
stamps down a wooden lane
way past the foul line.
At last he lets the thing go
literally dropping it to the floor.
The ball tries to bounce, fails,
thinks of rolling a little this way or that
but loses inertia and just stops.
There’s almost perfect silence.
That moment where people in a single place
begin thinking at the same time.
Finally as the old man looks up
from beneath his eye-lids
(two pinkish curves bent like optic fiber)
a voice tells him to get out into the gutter.
Confused, he stands quite still
looks down at the bowling ball
as though it were a dog
and shakes his head so slightly.
The local paper carries a picture of him stood like this
his hairless skull a slight blur
as though the photographer caught
the meaning of senility on film.
The old man considers suing for defamation;
doubts he has the time left.

An uncle to Esther advises about Purim

 

Gods who survive in our cities are known by many different names.
Let us not confuse the sectarian with the secular, it may be unwise (or even dangerous) to do so.
Nor the men with the women, nor the sheep with the goats.

We cannot name the unnameable, nor look upon the truth of our own face.
We must not take another’s knife to bread for fear of being cut and thereafter becoming the unclean.
We must count our days very specifically, dress and undress as per instruction only.

We must not seek citrus, nor call down upon ourselves the dreams of our fathers.
We must permit others as we ourselves would be permitted.
Take no common stone into our mouths nor cause common stones to be placed wantonly into the mouths of others.

There shall be no prospect of forgiveness for those who wear the skirts of the unforgiven.
Ponder the wisdom of your own born skin and let the beards of the women be not cut.
You shall not be unkempt without purpose, nor unwashed without design.

You shall not ride or be falsely motorized, nor accept gifts of unbraided hair.
Walk no lines unless upon a day set aside by those with days to spare.
You will take it upon yourself to be calm yet also at all times full.

You shall wake and cause others to wake also.
You shall count not the fingers of the broken, nor consider your own dexterity but a gift from Him.
If at the coast turn inland, when close to the harbor maroon.

In times of weather revile shelter, on each night of winter cast off your cloth.
When late begin again, when early do not wait.
Do not crop upon the planted, do not weep for the dry.

In the clinics of the lost make every effort to remain unfollowed.
Do not look out of that window, do not seek the means of your own control.
Honor those who sit quietly and your uncles particularly.

Never leave until the breath has stopped.
Promise faithfully instead you will not forget
me.

 

Soundtrack here