The following are excerpted from a cycle of poems about memory loss. The author dedicates them to her husband, Peter.
At 81, Writing
In the clarity of early morning he sits, writing. Sunlight touches the fine hairs on his arm. Muscles ripple gently as he moves his pencil, the veins on the back of his hand illuminated. Little rivers. His worn cap is half in shadow, his childhood on the farm a field his pencil plows, new lines against furrows of forgetting.
Who can describe the weight of love — late we learn how heavy, when grief is the flood we float above and love is the break in the levee. And who can take the measure of love — how wide it is, or how narrow, when hope is the breath of the mourning dove and death is the quiver and arrow.
Come To Bed
Come naked into bed, my love — I will tell you with my body what your body can understand even here, where your mind slips on the slope of forgetting. Come to bed. The gift it gives us we would never choose — this naked understanding: how much we have to lose.
Yesterday, When You Forgot . . .
I felt a slam of anger, fog hardening to ice, cold, heavy, yet I would not could not did not in the least desire to escape. I wore it, anger, like a finest fur coat in a season when fur is out of season — immoral, in bad taste, dangerous to the world of diminishing animals. It is your animal self that is diminishing, and I am helpless to find you in this jungle of falling trees. The voice in me that needs to comfort you, comfort me, turned then toward hibernation until I had nothing but a howl. I curled to fetal, hungered for a cave so dark I could no longer see what is becoming you and me. What is becoming you is disappearance, and I am unbecoming me. Anger felt solid, bold, numb, as if it might hold me some where
I’m already alone. What’s known to me can’t be known to you. I must protect you from yourself. But I can’t know how far you go protecting me. And so it may be that we are each already alone.
Old love is a ripe persimmon on a wild persimmon tree. Love, we are old, have you noticed — you and me? And our love is old, and sweet and ripe on the tip of the lover’s tongue. Remember, love, the bitter sting sometimes, when we were young? But now we have ripened, round and full of golden sweetness, golden sun, and we look with surprise at each other: You are the one. You are the one, beloved, we say. Don’t fear the flight. We’re just taking the seeds of this sweetness back to the earth’s good night.
It is for this we have been torn and mended and torn again. This glad rag of my old body almost every night pulls itself across a white expanse of sheet into your arms. After harms and threats of harms, alarms on the evening news, we bear the bruise of knowing this world that we love will not be ours to mend. We bend our bodies into one and ride the world once more around the sun.