I Come to Her Room

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words drab, pulsate, tendril. Also submitted for dVerse OpenLinkNight. I know I’m running a little behind for both submissions, but I’ll try to play catch up on commenting this week.

I Come to Her Room
I come to her room once
a week, there in the old
folks’ home, sitting with her
in the windowless
drab room as she tries
to remember me. She stares
at old photographs,
seeing strangers’ faces, her
memory dim as the pulsating
florescent bulb over her
narrow bed. With stiff fingers
she pushes a gray tendril of hair
behind her ear, and I
think of the time she
waved those hands witch-like
around my face, repeating
Sing and dance for joy,
life goes on despite the pain.
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45 thoughts on “I Come to Her Room

  1. Perhaps it is harder to see someone forget than to forget yourself..of course it must be..and yet in muscle memory..electricity..fibres of being I hope I hope we always remain as we were and are..like an essence..though I hope the message was more comfort than the fingers..good to have you back..

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  2. its sad you know…going to see them in those latte days when they can not remember…hard…a joy when they do recognize you but painful when they dont…i imagine she was trying to communicate in her own way there in the end….

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  3. Sing and dance for joy,
    life goes on despite the pain…oh wow…this is painful how you describer her…memory dim like the light bulb…but she taught you something so valuable…

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  4. What a difficult situation ~ It breaks my heart to watch our loved ones, specially parents, grow old and helpless until they don't remember you anymore ~

    Nice to see you Nico ~

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  5. Hey Nico

    i am always captivated by the simplicity of your poetry.
    It is straight forward and has an authentic and honest
    calm to it . . . the kind of voice i admire and envy.

    I can relate to this narrative, in fact, just
    by changing the final stanza to something along
    the lines of

    behind her ear, and I

    think of the time
    she took me tiptoeing
    though the tulips

    it could have been straight from my memory bank . . .

    only you see and say it much clearer
    which i find cathartic and impressive.

    all the best

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  6. Hmmmm, why “those hands witch-like around my face”? In which way was she witchy? Was she crazy — the next line makes her sound selfish and bizarre to say such things to a child — or anyone — waving hands around anyone's faces.

    A dark image — filial duty or love?

    If the reader is suppose to feel sad for loss of memory, age and loneliness, this poem does not do that for me. It points to a bizarre woman isolated now and perhaps much earlier too. I doubt that was your intent. Every other comment here seems to go for the generic former heart strings. But the witchiness changed it all for me.

    That whole enjambment thing still leaves me very cold.
    But I love your poetry, as I do this one, so here was my approach.
    I read it as prose – ignoring stanza, line breaks etc and indeed it reads just like prose. Because if I read it otherwise, I get lost.

    Now I will read it a second time to see if the breaks change anything in feeling or sound: and it doesn't. I still don't get why folks do this. I am soooo dull.

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  7. This is so moving and sad. Luckily both my parents stayed lucid up to their very aged ends, and at almost 80, I still have all, or most of my 'marbles'; but we have lost old friends and family, years before they actually died, to this most painful of syndromes. It is always heart-wrenching to realise that we know and remember, but they do not.

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  8. Thanks Arron, I'm glad you could relate. It's great that the two of us, with two different voices and approaches to poetry, can appreciate each other. The poetry world needs the calm voice, and also the strident agitation that you write so well.

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  9. Thanks Sabio. Witch-like. Surely you have seen movies with witches in them, and are aware of how they are commonly represented–waving their hands around as they hex, curse, cast a spell. If you have ever witnessed someone with dementia trying to talk, to break through the barrier to sanity in order to communicate, you may recognize the similarity.

    Enjambment–maybe it's an acquired taste. There are a ton of reasons for breaking lines in certain places, and not all of them have to do with end rhymes or punctuation. If it helps you to read poetry as prose, go for it I say!

    For the rest–I think poetry should have some meaning, which means it should probably follow some kind of logic in order to be understood. But you seem to try to read poetry as if it should follow text-book rules. You're not dull, by any stretch–but poetry speaks to the heart as well as the head. One way to read with the heart is to try to see and feel what the narrator is seeing and feeling; in other words, read the poem from the inside without trying to impose rules of perspective.

    Thanks again for the interaction, Sabio, I always enjoy it!

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  10. Thanks Leigh, we all hope for a peaceful ending–an maybe dementia is a better way to go than having to relive a painful past. Either way, it's a hard thing for the caregivers to see.

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  11. Hey Nico

    Ah, I see the “witchy” you were trying to imply. Maybe you see my thoughts about how that I saw it mixed with the childhood experience. I was curious about your childhood relation with this woman. Or is the whole piece fictional. When family become demented (I have experience with this too (daily in my job and with my family), our past relationship with them makes relating to the new demented person complex — very complex.

    For me, at this point in my poetry-naive state (which may last forever), the enjambment is abrupt, destroying flow — or at least most I read.
    But lots of people love it, apparently. So it must be my lack of insight or a certain dullness of a “poetic mind”. Nonetheless, I did want to mention my impression — since this is a comment thread. Since your poetry has a message, a meaning and a feeling that is clear, your enjambment was much more tolerable — perhaps it will be muddy spittle in my eyes and slowly cure my blindness. 🙂

    You are mistaken that I try to read poetry “as if it should follow text-book rules”. I think both poetry and prose speak to the heart and the head. As do music, sculpturing and more.

    Looking “to see and feel what the narrator is seeing and feeling” is always my intent — by I am not psychic, and I think many folks writing poetry are not being reader friendly but merely write for themselves. Indeed many say this. It is that selfish poetry that I usually don't enjoy. Yours is never like that.

    Glad you enjoy the interaction — I too.

    BTW, I see you didn't get a chance to write a Ghazal, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on mine — more specifically, a comment on my last comment on the thread — if you have a chance.

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  12. You really had me laughing with the muddy spittle–I am come into this world, that they which see might not see; and that they which see might be made blind.

    Almost all of my poetry is at least partly fictional. I try to base it on real events, real places, things I have experienced, but I am willing to change some facts in order to tell the story I want to tell.

    I realize you aren't an ignorant reader, or unskilled appreciator of art in all forms–forgive me if that's the impression I gave. You're right that people write for different reasons, and sometimes these reasons are so personal that it's hard for another reader to figure out what's going on.

    Yeah, I ran out of time for writing poetry this week, but I will head over to see what you have. Thanks again, Sabio!

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  13. Ah, I never fictionalize my poetry. 'Tis always personal. With so much personal stuff out there, I can't understand why folks write fiction for poetry. For prose, I get it.
    Well , fictional poetry which is clearly fiction (The Raven), I do understand. But why write vaguely and make readers wonder if it is personal.

    No, no — I am indeed confessing, I am a poetry ignoramus. But I am an ignoramus in a great many things and damn proud of it. I am highly educated but superficially and thinly and forget very quickly without hesitation. 🙂

    Looks like I am the only one who read your reply (and replied to it) — another unique trait of poetry bloggers. 🙂

    Thanx for the note.

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  14. I guess what I mean by fictionalizing is this: “What one actually or provably knows about an actual experience is never complete; it cannot, within the limits of memory or factual records, be made whole. Imagination 'completes the picture' by transcending the actual memories and provable facts. For this reason, I have often begun with an actual experience and in the end produced what I have had to call a fiction. In the effort to tell a whole story, to see it whole and clear, I have had to imagine more than I have known.” (Wendell Berry, from “Imagination in Place.”)

    When writing, we are always making judgments about what to say and leave unsaid, which facts to emphasize or diminish, whether kindness to others requires a change of name or location (protecting the innocent OR guilty!), whether the story, or rather the story's purpose, is better served by conflating separate events, different people into one character, etc. I think poetry should be different than a realist recitation of historical facts, just as they happened. Imagination takes those facts, sees a story with a purpose (whether to entertain, instruct, inspire, disturb, whatever), and rearranges things to suit the purpose. At least that's how I see it!

    But there is a world of difference between this kind of fictionalizing and being vague. There is seldom a good reason for intentional vagueness!

    Hey! I'm proud of my ignorance as well–yet another thing we have in common! I left a note on your Ghazal–I enjoyed it very much.

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  15. Thanks Heidi, for your considerate reading. I cannot claim originality for the simile–older writers likened aging to a flickering candle–I just updated it a bit.

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