Saturday, January 29, 2011

DeBaggio/Oppen: An Alzheimer's Writing Experiment

never the chess game the checker game in which the pieces
The words are under control but the letters that form the words squirm in their own directions.
Juggler, why need I invent so much
I have searched for the potent words that announce my coming departure, but I cannot find them.
in the back yard tongueless
Words come when I sit down to write, but they dance away seductively, and meaning and substance disappear quickly.
on the beach in the hissing surf I don't know don't know what to say
I have to be careful to spell correctly but sometimes . . .
poem said you may see the poem spells itself out
Thoughts squiggle and writhe into sentences that disappear before they can be acknowledged.
wordings o my elderly siblings the children running on the beach in the hissing surf I don't know don't know what to say
It is tough work all day to chase words flitting away before they anoint paper with their color. Tyger still burning in me burning in the night sky burning in us the light
I can spell the word "dying" but I do not know what it really means other than the opposite of living. I have experienced living and it has already cost me many words and I have yet to understand it fully.
to become old the innocence
When I am writing, I am someone else looking at me and the world.
The old man In the mirror Startles Me But the young man In the photograph Is stranger Still.
I bleed emotion every hour and play with a tricky shifting alphabet of stumbling words. I have just spent five minutes struggling to spell the word "hour."
And cannot bear to speak of it
I am losing my ability to write. I see the signs of verbal atrophy every day. Cut my legs off but don't take away my ability to think, dream, and write.
In the last month, an arm Stiff, a leg Dragging, his speech Impeded--'You cannot Imagine', he said, 'What has Been happening To me--'
More and more I am unconsciously mixing words that have similar sounds: our and out, would and wood, me and be, to name a few.
the saving ray of strangeness saving ray of exile ray of darkeness ray of light
Almost every minute of the day is destroyed by the struggle to reclaim lost words in my search to communicate. It is a losing battle, but I will sing until no word is left.
that force the words
out of that whirlwind his
and not his strange
words surround him

Night after night strange dreams inhabit my sleep, nights of lost wandering, terror, fear, and mysterious occurrences. These are dreams of confusion, deep, dreadful dreams I categorize as Alzheimer's experiences. In them the man I see is walking, wandering aimlessly, lost and fearful. I wake up screaming, fearing loss of control, hiccupping with fear, breathless with emotion.
I dreamed one night that I was in Northern France in one of the red-brick industrial towns the doors and the windows locked. I knocked on a door and entered and I said to the family I was here during the war, I was
in a house near here tho I cannot find it, it is near, you
can take me there they will know me.
I stood in that room and they would not guide me. I was lost and they could not guide me.
After so many years coddling words, it is now I realize writing carries the blood of memory. boards and the voice of the poem a wandering foreigner more strange
Alzheimer's is like trying to describe air.
the finches at the feeder in Spring yell us us us us does their language contain them The struggle to find the words, to express myself, has become insurmountable. I must now be done with writing and lick words instead.
whereupon curious archangels begin to watch


Text in Arial comes from Thomas DeBaggio's Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's.

Text in Courier comes from George Oppen's New Collected Poems, edited by Michael Davidson. I took lines from the poems of the 1970s, whether originally published or not.

Blogger has, as is its wont, further deranged line breaks; I have let these errors be.

1 comment:

Jonathan Morse said...

Tech note about line breaks: compose in Windows Live Writer, then publish to Blogger. But the poem of your prescription post . . . !