Posts Tagged ‘dementia’


the courage to do
wrong — all our very cheapest
stories recognise
— in some blind way — that nothing
makes sense like a paradox

My last night’s dream was really quite powerful and significant. It entailed my being seduced by Beryl Graves, the wife of the poet Robert Graves. Currently I am reading his historical novel Count Belisarius, and finding it a little bit tedious. Graves is an important figure for me. He captured my imagination in my mid-twenties, when I was struggling with so-called ‘psychotic’ experiences, and I made the journey to his house in Spain, in 1982, to try and gain enlightenment from the great man. I knocked on the door and was kindly entertained for an hour by his wife (then in her sixties) while Robert himself sat inert in a wheelchair. He was 87 and had retreated into dementia.


compos mentis

what day is today?
— depends — what if, for instance
alters the fabric of time
reflecting it back at you?

The ability to keep track of time can disappear. My sister and I are watching this happen to my mother. My poem is just a little disingenuous. It’s an attempt to argue that time can be flexible for anyone at any time regardless whether they have ‘dementia’ or not. We all have the evidence for the power of the imagination to bend time. But getting completely lost is another thing. I dreamed last night I was organising somebody’s time, coming to an agreement about a regular pattern of time involving Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Annoyingly, the rest of the content of the dream has disappeared so I have no idea what was to take place on those days.

crazy ugly

geriatric sex —
I accept the craziness
— desire was always
crazy — right from the very
beginning of existence

I woke desperate for orgasm, having been dreaming of sex with an older woman — or indeed — an ancient woman. She was living quite alone in an attic room, accessed by clambering a quaint wooden staircase. My interest in her as a person seemed to focus on the idea that she had been a singer (an unfulfilled ambition of my mother’s in real life). I did feel a lot of interest in her as a person, quite apart from the crazy sexual attraction I was experiencing in the dream. I don’t suppose this link will remain live for very many weeks, but it’s a brilliant review by Adam Mars-Jones, of a book about grieving. I sent it to my sister yesterday, as being relevant to our current struggles to process my mother’s decline into possible dementia, and drawing her attention particularly to the last couple of paragraphs about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, where Mars-Jones refers to Kubler-Ross as ‘the madwoman in the attic’. A reference of course to Jane Eyre‘s Mrs Rochester. But also quite possibly to Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea — a book I still have never read though I must — which retells Jane Eyre from Mrs Rochester’s point of view. Have also realised a probable source for the dream in yesterday’s events — a book by the poet C.K.Williams called Misgivings which I’m currently reading. It’s an autobiography. But it’s mostly a terribly subjective and detailed account of his feelings towards his parents. And there was a brief passage I read last night describing an early, Oedipal, memory of seeing his mother naked:

I’m in a room with my mother. I’m looking not up but straight across at her, so I must be standing, perhaps in a crib. My mother is next to a window; I watch her, though she doesn’t know that I do. A block of yellow sunlight fills part of the room, and when it touches my mother — she’s naked, or partly naked — it turns golden, and then the whole room is glowingly golden. I’m acutely aware of my mother’s body, especially her breasts; surely I’ve seen her breasts before — she nursed me for some weeks — but never with the appalled half-furtiveness with which I behold them now. I seemed to have experienced beauty and shyness and shame all in the same intake of breath.


memories stack up
in the brain — serving what end?
— what purpose? — futile
humanity cannot help
hoping to be remembered

What a strange thing it is, to be simultaneously both the person being remembered and the person doing the remembering! Does identity consist in doing the remembering or in being remembered? I’m led to reflect along these lines both by my mother’s gradual decline into forgetful old age, in waking life, and by a dream last night of filing away bulky sheets of A4 journals into a lever arch file.

what use?

reaching the point where
my own unreality
bewilders me so
— it’s like being eleven
eggs short of the full dozen

Distress yesterday from spending time with my mother and sister, ending up doubting everything about myself and my assumptions. What is a fully functional human being? Why do we require and expect efficiency and effectiveness from our fellow human beings? Including or especially ourselves. Why does my sister not have more patience with my mother? What is this demand on my part for patience from my sister? I dreamed of a cat, on the one hand, and a fluffy toy for cats on the other. The fluffy toy contained the faint essence of what was once a cat, or perhaps the soul of a dead cat. The toy purred when it was placed next to the real cat. Although it was scarcely a cat at all, the toy was experiencing more fulfilment from closeness to the real cat, than the cat was, from closeness to the toy. Although, that said, the real cat noticed the toy and seemed to like it. Quite an upsetting dream! The real cat is perhaps my sister, and the fluffy toy my mother. Sometimes my mother seems so far away from her younger self, she is like a memory of herself. In my poem, I’m just describing exactly how I feel as I come to write the poem. Disorientated and full of self-doubt, from yesterday. Maybe the fluffy toy is me. What do we ever know about ourselves? What does all our efficiency and effectiveness, and patience, amount to?