A visit from The Healing Muse: 'It's Not Dementia'
Deirdre Neilen, PhD, shares a selection from Upstate‘s literary journal, “The Healing Muse,” every Sunday on “HealthLink on Air.” Neilen is the editor of the annual publication featuring fiction, poetry, essays and visual art focused on themes of medicine, illness, disability and healing. Read The Healing Muse Cafe Blog.
Today‘s selection is "It's Not Dementia" by Rob Jacques. Order your copy of “The Healing Muse” today.
Deirdre Neilen, PhD: Rob Jacques lives and writes on a rural island in Washington state's Puget Sound. He takes us through a man's determined struggle to stay clear in his poem "It's Not Dementia."
He begins with some lines from Robert Frost:
-- One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I described its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
For the life of me, I can't get used to seeing old friends
gone for years visiting me at odd moments, their being
dead no barrier at all to their attentive listening to me,
then disappearing as if they were never here beside me,
their smiles as warm as ever, their bodies as healthy
as they were long ago when we were young humanity.
The walk may be asphalt to you, but to me, I walk on
a soft woodsy duff as I reach out, not for that steel pole,
but for a black birch that grew old beside my school,
that grows there still in my timeless, faultless mind,
and even now its bold, lenticillated bark feels cool
to my hand though you see metal from where you stand.
My birdfeeders, where are they? Where did I put seed?
Here in my room, I search for small things that stray
and are lost to you, but not to me, and I need their feel
between my fingers: rings, coins, photographs, and such
that trigger scenes that seem to be current still and I'm
in them as I was back then: young, robust with a will.
Strings of long-ago conversations yet come to mind.
I try to carry them on even though I know I'm alone
and who knows who's listening? Things I wished
I'd said I say now hoping those who aren't here
still can hear, those who mattered once can know
I haven't forgotten them though time has shattered.
The past is a better place than here, and I dust off
memories to be back bright again in my world of yore
where I was whole and strong and still am in my
mind's eye where there are no stone strangers,
no corridors that lead nowhere I want to go, and I
live inside a blown reverie of what was until I die.