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DEMENTIA DIARIES (poem) - Maria Jastrzębska - United Kingdom - Poetry International
 
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Dementia Diaries
DAUGHTER


She’s certain he’s already moved in, knows he’s camping out in their cellar, biding his time till she dies, sneaking upstairs in the evenings to drink up all their wine. This is not true, of course. But it’s hard to convince her otherwise, as he called her a fucking cunt shouting so loud she shook all over and the carer dropped a fork. Mama wouldn’t go to sleep after that.

Even though he’d gone, she kept on shaking. She was keeping my dad awake too, so the carer phoned me and said how can he speak to his own mother like that, shall we call the doctor?


MAMA


Shall I sing you a table? I have to go home now - you never tell me anything.

I suppose everyone thinks I’ve gone gaga. I can’t even find my little scissors, the ones I always had in my make-up bag. What will the priest say when he visits? At least my daughter is coming. But she lied to me. I won’t eat a thing. I detest strawberries. Last night I slept soundly. They rode by on horseback, their hooves pounding, but I never woke up. But tonight I won’t sleep at all. You’ll see. He’s there in the cellar. I hear him moving about. He thinks I’m deaf but I see him out of the corner of my eye and won’t sleep.

My daughter is coming tomorrow. But she has betrayed me as well. She lied about the tables and chairs. You know what I mean by chairs, don’t you, not the ones you sit on but the other kind. Don’t you even know that? You’re naïve just like her. She wouldn’t be told. You look tired. You work too hard. I expect you’ve flushed all your energy away, tea-cupfuls of it. You’re my daisy, my angel. I must go home. But I want to tell you something very important. You’re like my daughter, you don’t know life. You’re my little duckling. She’s marrying that Jew with a beard, though I told her not to.

I have to go shopping. I need to get some new alibis. Help me. I’m really serious now. Oh please help me. Stop them. Stop them from meeting each other. My admirers, of course. Three of them, maybe four.


TATA


Hello. Hello. Your voice sounds familiar, but I can’t for the life of me think . . . Sorry to be a nuisance. Yes, yes of course I recognise you. No, no one else here.

It’s marvellous you can speak a little of our language. You should take lessons. Honestly. What’s your line of work? Does it pay well. No? A mug’s game.

I don’t exactly know . . . I’m trying to think . . . My wife takes care of all that. What time did you say it was? Yes, I can see the clock. Well I should have had breakfast by now, but I’d remember if I’d had it, a simple thing like that . . . No, we haven’t seen the children, not for months. Too bloody busy I expect. What’s your job? Does it pay well? Oh, you know some words in our language! Ever thought of taking lessons? You never know when a foreign language might come in handy.

Yes I’ll make sure my wife gets the message. I should know . . . She’s out shopping, at least I expect that’s where she is. I’ll tell her you called. No, I don’t think I know any Mrs Alicja. I’d know if I’d met her. We manage perfectly well, no complaints. No, we don’t need any help! Thanks all the same.

Where did you say I was? Of course. I knew that! I haven’t seen any foxes round here. I haven’t seen one since . . . we saw them during the war. They were starving then too.


MRS ALICJA


I suppose I’ll be in for it from Mr Health–and–Safety, unless the daughter doesn’t tell her brother. That’s the second time now. I phoned the daughter of course, but I can’t be in two places at once. I treat them like my own family, more like kids really. Sometimes I have to tell them off, but then I feel bad like the time I found all that ham in her handbag. What ever were you thinking of, I said. Oooh, she looked scared for a minute. Then she looked up all defiant and she said: it’s for the fox, don’t you care what happens to it?

Thick as thieves those two. I call them my two love-birds. Fall asleep holding hands. In the night she rolls right over onto his side of the bed, wraps her skinny little body around him and that big man squeezes right onto the edge of the bed to make room for her.

How she’d got him to fetch the scissors and where he found them I’ll never know. She was wide-awake this morning, let me dress her. Wanting her breakfast, wanting to go out for their “walk”. But he doesn’t want to get out of bed. So she backs him up of course. “My husband is far too old to have to join the army today”, she says. Pointless my trying to tell them there’s no war on, they’re off arguing about it anyway, not listening to a word I say. He wants a bit longer in bed. “So tired” he says. I felt sorry for him. He doesn’t ask for much, not like her always after something.

I tried jollying him, cajoling him to get up, but he wouldn’t budge. “All right you can have a bit longer”, I said, “but only while I get your breakfast ready”. Well I was hardly gone at all. I had the intercom switched on the whole time but it went so quiet I knew something was up. You’d think I’d have heard them talking about it. Not a word. They do it with a look, a twitch of an eyebrow. Thick as thieves. I popped my head round the door, but I was too late. They were that quick.


EDZIO


I wish to complain on several counts. I asked quite naturally and equably if I might speak to my father on a certain pecuniary matter and was called a ‘bastard’. I then telephoned my sister who refuses to speak to me.

Bloodstains won’t wash out unless you scrub them, this also applies to beetroot, ink and wine, so I persist. Rubbish must be kept in bins as foxes can tear black bags open with their teeth and everything spills out. Such requests are hardly unreasonable.

On my last visit I spent four hours searching the cellar for items, which have been missing for some time. They include my father’s Leica camera, a silver engraved spoon, my gold christening cross and a lace embroidered tablecloth. These may strike you as irrelevant or petty matters but they are important to me and I would be grateful if you could assist me in finding them at the earliest opportunity. (I have written a number of letters regarding this, which no one has answered.) I also washed several blankets and sheets and do not see why I should have to carry out duties which Mrs Alicja is paid to do. I wish to complain about people who laugh at me.

I wish to complain that my father is deliberately kept in his pyjamas by the women, who are under my sister’s thumb as I believe this to be against equal rights. I wish to complain that my windscreen got broken and I can’t afford to repair it. I wish to complain that pictures on walls are crooked and concrete is rough to the touch. I never learnt to whistle as well as my friends and windows were lit up from within while I stood in the cold outside.


DAUGHTER


We’ve almost reached the woods now. The air grows darker, more blue. It’s always the same dream and I always know it’s a dream. Normally it ends about now. But tonight everything’s different. My parents have leapt over the fence. They seem happier than they’ve been in years. Edzio has come running out of the cellar, snapping at Tata’s hooves, but Tata just ignores him this time. He’s no longer a weary Shire horse, but a young stallion bounding after Mama. She’s way ahead of us. “You’d better hurry up if you want to come with us!” Tata neighs, sounding remarkably like his old self. Mrs Alicja soars into the sky and instead of her usual clucking she gives me a hopeful honk from above. I’m trying to catch up.

In a clearing I see the fox and realise we are all chasing after it. As we get closer the fox jumps into the bushes but then I realise something else. It’s bigger than a fox and its tail is a flash of silver. In fact I’m not sure it is a fox, maybe some kind of wolf and there’s something else: I’m a fox or wolf myself and I’m not following my family anymore, I’m running with a pack. I can’t look round. For all I know they’ve all turned into wolves like me. Worse still I’m enjoying myself. We’re trampling through bracken and I keep thinking I’ve got to change back: I’m meeting with the social worker in the morning to discuss my parents’ care plan.