Dementia

By Edward Butscher

Melodic are its three demonic syllables

pried from a deep Roman grave to root

in English hospitals and American labs

or dance like a pranked school skeleton,

serving as a noun escape, an anesthetic

for the last peeled-off sliver of self.

 

Crowned “Nana” by the family and tied

to a window chair by a foreign old age,

she cursed the grown daughters who

mothered her, changing her, feeding her

the Italian treats she loved to break down,

crumbling earth crusts into the silken oil

of remembered olive trees amid sliced

tongues of tomatoes and loud peppers.

 

“Aunt Ida” always, Edith winked coy smiles,

gave a girlish “yes” to whatever was asked,

efficient as ever only in the theatre of her

subway mind, where she wore a Red Cross

cape to tend the crowds of poor strangers,

crawling towards the infant she once was

without seeing the long distance behind.

 

A Polish Jew who fled as a boy to the wall

before settling in a New World and name,

“Yehuda Nir,” swelled by a stuck ego’s war

to save a self, he rose from a lost childhood

to heal fellow survivors, hating the tribe

that had hacked his father from his hand,

unable to forget or forgive or grow old.

 

Under eyelids blacker than any blackness

one can imagine or recall, it means raging

down the mind’s spider-stitched staircase

to a cellar floor where pleasure was simple

as verse, now a night terror, like a Stoic’s

scorned “death,” that can’t sleep or be.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.


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