Far Away by Kate Marshall Flaherty

Pictures taped on the wall,
tenderly showing sequence—
panties before skirt, socks before shoes—set me
wondering what an Alzheimer mind
feels like inside …
Scrolling back to childhood
where daughters seem sisters,
déjà vus cobweb, and
sleepwalkers startle and wake
under snowy lamp-posts
where I think I must know you but
your name dissolves like tissue in a tub.

Such a mind
a stalwart mule refusing the harness
and cart: ox cart, oxo cubes, hugs and kisses,
signatures flatten to a scrawl and this
was once poetry with words like luminous and—
They say you stew in your own juices,
if you were sweet you thicken; if sour, then
Old Sneep sucking on a lemon.

How is it amnesia doesn’t wipe away language?
The life-story forgotten but not the words;
we lost the way but not the meaning
I am lost.

Aren’t we all? And to be
shuffling down the corridor vague as melting clocks,
dilly dally, daily times and dill pickles, doorknobs
opening the tin and sons become brothers,
names fall away like flesh from soup-stock bones.

Lily pad thoughts float on murky ponds,
white and clean as these daisys on the gurney,
chalk-white like the nurses’ sensible shoes but somehow
those fingernails on a slate, black hole
sucking in everything like a hoover;
eightball rebounding but never sunk.
And sometimes, after long long days of staring
at nothingness:
Oh! Lemon squares!


Copyright © Kate Marshall Flaherty. Originally published in String of Mysteries (Hidden Brook Press, 2012).


Kate Marshall Flaherty has five books of poetry, including Reaching V (Guernica Editions) and Radiant, launching 2019 with Inanna Publications. She has been published in numerous Canadian and International Journals and Anthologies, has been shortlisted for Descant’s Best Canadian Poem, the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize, the Robert Frost Poetry Award and others. She is presently Writer in Residence at the Heliconian Arts and Letters Club, Poet in the Schools around Canada, and Toronto Rep. for the League of Canadian Poets. She has participated in National Random Acts of Poetry, and will inaugurate “The Poet Is In” with Marie Howe in Union Station February 2019. She guides StillPoint Writing Workshops in schools, youth shelters. universities and hospitals; poetry is her lifeline. See her performance poetry to music at http://katemarshallflaherty.ca/kmf/.

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