He stands at the door, a crazy old man
Back from the hospital, his mind rattling
like the suitcase, swinging from his hand,
That contains shaving cream, a piggy bank,
A book he sometimes pretends to read,
His clothes. On the brick wall beside him
Roses and columbine slug it out for space, claw the mortar.
The sun is shining, as it does late in the afternoon
in England, after rain.
Sun hardens the house, reifies it,
Strikes the iron grillwork like a smithy
and sparks fly off, burning in the bushes--
While the white wood trim defines solidity in space.
This is his house. He remembers it as his,
Remembers the walkway he built between the front room
and the garage, the rhododendron he planted in back,
the car he used to drive. He remembers himself,
A younger man, in a tweed hat, a man who loved
Music. There is no time for that now. No time for music,
The peculiar screeching of strings, the luxurious
Fiddling with emotion.
Other things have become more urgent.
Other matters are now of greater import, have more
Consequence, must be attended to. The first
Thing he must do, now that he is home, is decide who
This woman is, this old, white-haired woman
Standing here in the doorway,
Welcoming him in.
Copyright © 1997 Kelly Cherry
Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University
Press from Death and Transfiguration, by Kelly Cherry.
Copyright © 1997 Kelly Cherry.
Kelly Cherry is a well-known poet who has published many books. She is a professor
of the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I was fortunate to
attend her poetry reading this year at the University of Alabama at Huntsville,
and afterwards I met Kelly and asked her for permission to print this poem. Later
I also obtained permission from the publisher, Louisiana State University Press, to
use this poem from Kelly's book Death and Transfiguration. This moving poem
is a picture of her father and his Alzheimer's. Her parents were musicians;
They had lived for their music, but Alzheimer's and other health problems changed all
of that. When I told Kelly that my mother had been an Alzheimer's patient, she said,
"Then you know what it's like." When I told her about my web site Kelly also granted me
permission to use a story about Alzheimer's from her book: My Life and Dr. Joyce Brothers,
This story, "That Old Man I Used to Know",is
now also linked at this site. It is an honor
to have her writings here at this site. Thank you so much to Kelly Cherry
for sharing your works with us!