Her words were avenues


One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold
(Tomas Tranströmer, After a death)


My love was weightless, numbly dense
clinging like an oak-leaf lastly left
my love was smell of soil,
it was the beating sense of warmth, umbilical
reflected in the snow. Afterwards
one’s words were emptied, spilled and overdone
drenched in gravy, tepid, tied.
My love was willow-bending winds across the bay
autumn rushes, but in races never won
one can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun

recalling morning moments; soliloquy
converging dreams, those moments when I knew
exactly how she could explain, in sequences.
Her words were avenues leading up to doors
of mansions, houses she had built.
But she lost directions; gone
were roads; walls a-crumbling, ivy in her eyes.
And though my love was strong
she searched, slowly pulled, she was drawn
through brush where a few leaves hang on.

Time was yarn, nested skeins of wool
unwritten letters, thoughts and confirmations,
the taste of stamps and envelopes.
My love is dried-up ink inside my fountain-pen,
it’s the silence of a fading memory.
It’s the sepia of photographs, it’s the sound of trains
switches, steam, and the smoke from kilns,
and she still recalls her childhood better.
When days are colder, soon added to a century.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.

In the dappled light, October sun
her hand looks small, resting on the cane
“I can drive you home”, she says
still thinking that her father’s car, is parked
not yet rust, still waiting just beyond
underneath the birches, dressed in gold.
And she tells me of her friends, imagined
she asks me why her mother never calls.
When parents fade they are like old
names swallowed by the cold.

IMG_20150825_144408
Today Kelly makes a premiere as a permanent member of the dVerse staff with a prompt on writing a love poem before it’s too late. Life is filled with regrets, and I thought I would write one for my mother though she suffers from dementia she’s still alive. A glosa building on parts of a poem by Tomas Tranströmer I thought would work (though I might still work on it… )

51 responses to “Her words were avenues

  1. Sadly the avenues of dementia lead to faded sepia photographs…but do not underestimate the power of your umbilical love, Bjorn. This poignant write honors your mother with dignity even in memory loss.

  2. This is really my favorite recent poems of yours. So many striking images of what dementia is like…as well as the love one has for a parent. You have given us glimpses of life – past and present – sometimes confused, but the love still present. The fading, the asking, the yearning. Powerfully done!

    • As for your poem, I’m especially drawn to the title (which also hides “Her Word Swore Avenues” [or … Ave News, as in a bizarre variation of Ave Maria; perhaps there’s a kind of worship in this]).

      “My love was weightless/wait less”

      Is numbness the best or worst thing one can feel? Sometimes I’m not sure.

      “it was the beating sense of warmth” … Nice.

      “across the bay / autumn rushes” … There’s also some howling hiding inside the word “bay.”

      I LOVE this: “those moments when I knew
      exactly how she could explain, in sequences” (sigh/sea quenches)

      “Her words were avenues leading up to doors” … Ouch. Up to doors, but never through.

      “ivy in her eyes” … Green, vining, but also IV. I think the speaker sees the woman’s eyes as a lifeline, or medication, of sorts.

      “And though my love was strong
      she searched, slowly pulled, she was drawn” … I love the way this captures the heart of the poem. The way one person’s love for another can fall short when she has dementia because just cannot hold onto memories in the same way you can. Her brain works differently. For her, it’s all about this very moment, and rarely anything from the past. … There’s also a sketch hidden in “drawn.” As in, she’s not as real as you’d like her to be. Not as “filled in” and 3D.

      I love this: “the taste of stamps and envelopes” … It represents closure. Sealing thoughts/emotions away to be sent off, not knowing if they’ll ever be received, opened, read, or understood. And yet, the letters must be written … which really fits the theme of the prompt: “before it’s too late.” People should always say what needs to be said, regardless of the consequences. I have so much admiration for this kind of boldness. What’s the point in being quiet about what you feel? I think that’s what people end up regretting in life … being quiet, more so than being loud and then suffering because of it.

      “My love is dried-up ink inside my fountain-pen” … It’s uncanny how perfectly this fits that movie. Like, what else do I have to give/say? There’s SO much, but I just don’t have the ink (or energy) to keep trying.

      “hend hand looks small” … Is this supposed to say “her hand”? Because I just found the word “hend” on urbandictionary.com, and it adds some pretty cool meaning here.

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hend

      If this is true about your mother (or the person the speaker loves), then all the trouble/misery she puts you through is well worth it because of her charismatic, fun personality; vitality; and beauty. Even if she drives you mad most of the time.

      “still thinking that her father’s car, is parked” … I really like the way you ended the poem by showing us a bit of her thinking process. You did such an impressive job with the closing — tying her memories of her own mother to the hint that this is your mother. Throughout the poem, I think we aren’t sure, but the ending clarifies or at least offers the possibility.

      “When parents fade they are like
      names swallowed by the cold.” … Excellent.

      “I can drive you home”, she says

      Ha. It just occurred to me what else this might mean. You know, if it’s not your mom. 🙂

  3. How tragic and sad to see our loved ones fading away ~ I admire opening stanza and this part best:

    My love is dried-up ink inside my fountain-pen,
    it’s the silence of a fading memory.

    What a beautiful glosa Bjorn ! I am trying to write one for OLN, smiles ~

  4. Oh my, this brought tears so my eyes. I really loved the way you built it around that quote, creating the perfect frame for these poignant words. Your love for your mother shines through in such a beautiful way.

  5. Ah, geez, Bjorn. I barely made it through this magnificent work of art, the whole story being so close to home for me. I guess I’m blessed that in the midst of her dementia, my mother still knows me and can communicate, though only in the moment. The images you chose are so very good. And that quote…wow.

  6. My mother will be 90 this year and I’m blessed that she doesn’t suffer from dementia. I really loved this part of your magnificent poem, Bjorn:
    “My love is dried-up ink inside my fountain-pen,
    it’s the silence of a fading memory.
    It’s the sepia of photographs, it’s the sound of trains
    switches, steam, and the smoke from kilns,
    and she still recalls her childhood better.”
    They do seem to live in a dream world…mostly in the past…

  7. I don’t think I have the words to say all the feelings this brings up. It’s lovely how you speak of your mother, both the lovely and the difficult times.
    My son and I already speak of the future. He tells me to write down all my stories, in case I forget them.

  8. she still recalls her childhood better.
    When days are colder, soon added to a century.
    They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories

    Hank’s late MIL had dementia in her closing years. Your lines above are spot on Bjorn! Her recall was on long ago episodes not the recent ones until the later stages it was really nothing then. Great glosa!

    Hank

  9. Lovely piece. I am blessed to have both of my parents, and both still healthy in body and mind. My mom, though, had to watch her mom go through dementia. Hard indeed.

  10. This beautiful piece of art and soul has me in tears. There is so much , so much tender detail. i am especially am drawn in by the stanza about letters – “the taste of stamps” By the time you get to the car now gone to rus but new in her mind I am melted. I did lose my mother to dementia and the last lines “when parents fade they are like names swallowed by the cold.” is closer to my experience than feels comfortable. Thank you.

  11. This reminds me so much of my mother with Alzheimer’s who wondered why my dad, then deceased about fourteen years, never came to visit her at the nursing home. We kept telling her he was on a fishing trip. Well done, Bjorn.

  12. Love is a mysterious thing. It creates emotions in people that some never knew existed. I love the memories I make with my girlfriend and our little one. It reminds me every morning that I have purpose in my life. That is what your poem resounded to me. That the moments and memories are what forever stays in our minds. No matter how far away we may be from one another.

  13. Oh, that first stanza especially is rich and thickly overlaid with imagery – not too thickly, but dense, every word with multiple meaning. Although I have to admit I read ‘tired’ instead of ‘tied’ in this line: drenched in gravy, tepid, tied.
    It must be so hard to see mere glimmers and shadows of the former self: this is moving yet measured. Your language is acquiring a particular patina and rich warmth, I’ve noticed that in many of your recent poems.

  14. My husband and I lost the last of our parents, aunts and uncles over the last several years. We watched as their essence faded to unintelligible syllables. Your prose captured the journey we take with our loved ones.

  15. I love the way you’ve woven in the lines from the excerpt and the use of repetition in “my love was” powerful lines, these “it’s the sound of trains/switches, steam, and the smoke from kilns,” I enjoy the contrast in the feel of these words to the rest of the piece. Excellent poem, Bjorn!

  16. Love the way in which this piece hangs like an “oak-leaf lastly left” That last hanging leaf of fall, is always such a loaded and very poignant sight, I find … there is something visceral in that suspended fragility, that speaks to the realities of life.

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