Going To Africa

October 12, 2013 § 5 Comments

Dementia is many things, and although I do not profess to understand it, acknowledge that for many it can be intensely frightening. But as a creative, I recognise something in these people who suffer – it is like a form of lateral thinking. Although taken out of context, is it perhaps akin to what Joan Didion means by ‘magical thinking’?

   As the synapses degenerate, the brain makes connections it would not normally allow. People who create – whether through words, paint or music – perhaps recognise the thoughts and ideas that can emerge when what we call ‘normal boundaries’ are breached.

      I am not a poet. Poetry for me is a fiendishly hard medium to master – and I shall never be any good at it. Yet the poetic form, with it’s clipped fragments, its allusions, seem to lend itself to the ways that dementia manifests.

      This poem may make no sense at all. Let me know your thoughts….


Dulcie’s hand has gone to sleep again

She pinches the chicken thin skin

Checks the man in the photograph

Is still watching.

Scrubs her face with the pink toothbrush.

Grey bristles scrape

Old skin tingles.

Someone’s stolen the bathroom, she whispers

Making a puddle where the door used to be.

The wall clock doesn’t tick these days

Time stopped.

Hands bold on its dead face

Black shiny

Like the hair she used to love.

Memory flickers like a wren dart.

My best friend is an African

She tells the photograph.

The nurse comes in and smiles at the puddle.

Mouth open wide

Tongue flicks

Your daughter is here to see you.

But I don’t have one.

No time to waste, says the false face.

Dulcie’s hungry now

Stabs at her middle with the toothbrush.

The nightgown is peeled away.

Warm soap lathers and smarts

Dulcie waves at the man in the photograph

And shimmies.

She smells cardamon and lemon trees

On the warm brown skin

Hair curled tight like a scouring pad.

Her left hand reaches out to touch

The right strikes like a lizard and bites.

Dulcie’s body slides into the wheelchair

Glides along the corridor.

Hello Mum.

I don’t know you, Dulcie shouts.

There’s a burglar in the house!

Her daughter hands her a plastic mug with a spout

Hovers as she sucks up tepid tea.

Someone’s stealing things

It’s that man watching TV

Dulcie points:

The one with the parrot.

The daughter smiles.

Let’s go to the park, Mum

But it’s dangerous, complains Dulcie.

The lions are hungry

They’ll creep up on us

First we have to find the thief.

Shall we walk in the garden instead?

Dulcie bares her teeth

Moves her head slowly up and down.

We must be very careful not to tread on those snakes

They are very bad tempered you know.



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