Shackled by time slippers shuffled
Stooped to the high-backed seat
Queen throned, grey crown ruffled
Prince and Princess at her feet
The Prince takes a marbled hand
But a child’s touch cannot reach beyond
Their birth to a foreign land
To retrieve lost memories fond
In her realm time and place are a synaptic jumble
Behind curtained lids sightless pupils dart
O’er a past decaying to a mumble
As mind and body part
On a pedestal a not-still life
Head set in stone yet body moving
To the heart beat of a mother and a wife
Her monumental presence soothing
This poem came to me after visiting my mother in her care home with my sister, Joanne. It was our first visit in six months because of Covid restrictions and only the second time we’d seen her in a year. I had originally planned writing about how hand holding is central to human relationships and that holding hands through surgical gloves is wholly inadequate – perhaps surprising given that latex is thinner than a sheet of paper. But it turned out there wasn’t much poetry in PPE 😷 and I was stumped until leafing through Poems of Today, an anthology of poetry I serendipitously discovered later that same day on my mother’s bookshelf. In it I was struck by Midnight Lamentation by Harold Munro and in particular by the last verse:
I cannot reach beyond
Body, to you.
When you or I must go
There’ll be no more to say
-But a locked door.
The locked door image resonated as a metaphor not just for death but for the death of memory that is dementia. Another book on mum’s shelf (and on mine too) – A Shropshire Lad by A E Housman provided the metre.