VISITING MOTHER IN BEDLAM


For all the pretty curtains and the tasteful prints

and the carers’ determined bonhomie,

this is the house of the mad and my mother

a permanent resident.

 

Sane, she was aggressive. She is docile now.

She was unsociable, sane. Now she smarms –

at folk she’d once have considered common.

 

She thinks I am dead or my long dead father.

You’re a nurse or her daughter. Alzheimer’s

is the ultimate in wish fulfilment.

 

The deranged have no beauty or dignity, only

the trick of absolute exclusion. Yet you move

amongst these ghosts with such brave, loving

surefootedness. Je suis desolé!

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  1. #1 by John Plummer - November 7th, 2009 at 20:20

    I am living this one still. Each visit makes me pretend that I may know what I am doing but like my mother I am really just re-playing the past as if it was now. She cannot look forward – a terrible loss, worse even than memory in a way. I am grateful I found the best place for her to be cared for but I wish it could be different.

  2. #2 by Angella aka Angela Lansbury - January 9th, 2010 at 16:55

    I enjoyed the poem. I much prefer it to some of your others because it has a universal message and direct everyday language. (Which is what I aim at in my comic poetry.) It provokes thought. Yet it starts with happy thoughts and has an ironic light-heartedness which lifts the seriousness, relieves the depression, gives the author control over part of life in which he and the subject of the poem have not enough control.
    Your poem, in my opinion – I was going to say humble opinion, but let’s call it arrogant – is only borderline poetry because you need a mechanical digger to find rhyme or rhythm; and it works equally well as a piece of prose. I like the French ending. Funnily enough, I read it the first time without even noticing it was French. That’s how clearly your emotion drilled into me.
    You have inspired me to write another, comic poem, on this subject.

  3. #3 by David - January 10th, 2010 at 13:55

    Thank you. I’m glad the last sentence’s being in French seemed natural. It felt so to me from the first draft. I like your description of the piece being ‘borderline poetry’ and your needing ‘a mechanical digger to find rhyme or rhythm.’ Good too it’s inspired you to write. Perhaps you might post the piece on davidselzer.com?

  4. #4 by John Huddart - January 31st, 2010 at 16:43

    The order and formality of the poem – its exact and perfect order of mirrored stanzas, 1 and 4 and 2 and 3, make this one of your most elegant and perfectly formed poems. And the ironic contrast between the disordered mind of your mum and your ordered verses is at the heart of the piece’s success and an essence of its sadness.

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