When my grandma died from COVID in December, she’d also spent many years descending into dementia. After listening to a 6 hour long ambient album called Everywhere at the end time by a musician from Manchester called The Caretaker, which attempts to sonically represent the slow declension into dementia, I decided to write a series of 6 poems. These poems were my attempt to access a way of representing the cruel rending away, from ourselves, of our being, even as we live. The poems breach the limits of the dimensions of time in order to illustrate the continuity of memory, and the accompanying repetitions that dissolve us into an unknowable fog, still anchored here—absent of any access to the connection that helps us belong to ourselves and thus some where in the world. My grandma is from the Black Country in the West Midlands of Britain. I agonised over the spelling of her idiom and think this the most accurate. If you can’t understand, this is very understandable and I am pleased to explain.

dementia I

nan wakes from a dream in which nan wakes grandad from a nightmare.
lie back down jim…yow con put that bren-gun down.
yow ay at war no more…ther'yar. shush shush. gu back t'sleep.
—when I gerrup there I'm gunna thump ya fer leavin' me 'ere.
no time of day. she looks strange in the…the…mirror… 
steadily some semblance of herself in a throb
that comes from her bloated leg.   beetroot—   —sore.
remembers aching. blood won't slide—&…the dog…um…spot!
time skips a beat & flash-bang-wallop
: otherwiseotherwhere—otherworld!

I dow remember gerrin' owtta bed? did I nod off?       hunger.
I day gu out   t'day? did sumone visit? it wos light on'y a bit agu.   dark. 
her father deftly fixing a gold pocket watch with steel tweezers. 
he wos a sickly man. exact. chew'd up each bite of food 28 times.
the tiny bronze fragments laid out on an egg-shell handkerchief used for just this task.
she's reading hymns & craving jam. 
grandson…he's that one (pointing)…he went to live in asia
& married that pretty girl…ji…(jitter)…on…ji-on…?
her glutamate receptors glitch. her ligands do not form the land of memory. 
an old song disintegrating into non-existence

…I dow remember purrin' the tele on…that one…huh! who?
I remember…been…bein'…(glimpse-glitch) young…a song…music: dancing.
husband…catalogue…uncomfortable shoes…our protective cat from the 60s…
the pain of giving birth to king & country. to children: 1 son. 2 daughters.
I ay seen ya fer months…I was rownd yester-d' muvva!
e'worn't…if he wudda bin 'ere I wudda remembered…I i'nt daft!
wot's outside? pansies…the french pensees. warm tomatoes. rain.
broad beans on long dowel wood rods set like tepees…
'is mucky gard'n shurts…black n' white flicks while bakin' apple pie. 
glitch-drone-glitch-panic-silence-drone-pulse-headache headache-drone-glitch-phase

awake on the floor…dog's going bonkers. 'e's a good boy 'in't ya!
I'm filthy…ow'd I gerr'in such a…'ere? wen wos the 'ouse clean'd.
the smell of bleach. 'er name wos mrs. ba she lived next door.
'er son went to south africa. 'e married someone wiv an accent.
there's summat els' gorr'in 'ere. summat wiv a crown.
o lord god deliver me. deliver me 'ome o lord almighty.
I'm knacker'd. I live in an ache. there's nuffin. me. I. my.
summat's eatin' me away. dimness
: rumble   rumble   rumble       roar.       rumble 
embedded in another time from us.
space: a cocoon of undisclosed objects













Posted by:DPM

DPM is an idea-logue (sic) and object-oriented speculative realist, attempting to be response-able in an irresponse-able society.

9 thoughts on “dementia I

  1. I’m sorry you lost her. A really unsettling and moving tribute. I wonder if there are also moments of joy in recalling the past. My brother has schizophrenia and although not the same, many years on, I think of the times I saw him laughing while having auditory hallucinations and I wonder if that was any less joyous than the joy in a more lucid moment. It’s been a long time—I hope you’re well.

    1. Thank you. It was a tough loss as she died just as we were moving into the 2nd UK lockdown. For this reason I was unable to travel to see my family or go to the funeral. Moreover, I assumed she would die peacefully, but apparently she seems to have suffered, as she was alone, in a hospital, confused and fearful. This has caused me some distress.

      I think you are correct to speculate something more positive about your brother’s hallucinations. But I think schizophrenia is a spectrum of various reactions, as it shifts how we respond to what are usually stable signifiers. This must be very confusing. I can’t even imagine it. Thanks for sharing this about your brother. I hope you’re well too.

  2. Oh that sounds horrible. I can understand your distress. I’m well, thanks. We’ve just entered our fifth lockdown here. Trying to focus on what truly matters. It has been a time of letting go of unnecessarily
    things/ideas/ways of being. Life, hey? If it wasn’t this (general state of the world) it’d be something else. In the category of things that are necessary—I am studying poetry this semester 😊

    1. It certainly has been a time to re-orient the hierarchies of importance that previously suggested themselves to us. If ever there was a time for thinking and big insight, this is it. Glad to hear you are studying poetry. Reading anything particularly impactful?

      1. Only one lesson in. Pleased to have discovered lal ded – pretty blown away actually! I decided today to base my research/presentation assignment on a contemporary poet–Ali Whitelock.

      2. I ask because I have not really engaged much with poetry since writing my MA dissertation on John Wedgewood Clarke. That is until I recently started to think about how to transmute my reading in [ecological] philosophy & social theory into poetry. So appreciate any recommended reading that comes my way as I am up to my neck in dense critical texts currently; all very interesting but leaves little time for discovering poets. Thanks for that.

  3. So very very sorry you had to go through the loss of your grandmother both before and after she died. Dementia is a death of the whole, a reduction to the confusion and fear of the diseased part(s) of the brain. So the confused, fearful person was not your grandmother as you knew her. It is one of the cold comforts of dementia. The one you love is not there by that stage. So much frustration as we try and reason with the unreasoning disease, like they are maybe prone to sensibility, somehow, if we say the right words. Then, when they look at us like we are strangers we feel an odd rejection, and a whole lot of impotent rage towards the situation. Dementia just does not give 1/16th of 1/3rd of 0.0000001% of a fuck about how we feel. Husbands become threatening strangers, nurses become enemies, and the outer world becomes a spinning hammer that stirs the inner storms.

    One learns to grasp tightly to any and all light in the quicksand. I know of one dementia patient who enjoys her afternoon conversations with another patient… though she speaks no Korean, and the other speaks no English!

    1. Thank you Daniel. It is an upsetting process to watch. My grandma didn’t reach the later stages of complete forgetfulness, which I think I am probably quite grateful for. Fortunately she still recognised us. She was somewhat stuck in a particular time, for example she thought I was still married and would always ask where my wife was and how long I was back from Korea. It got to the point where I just lied as it was easier.

      I love the image of the arrangement of the two dementia patients at the end of your comment.

      1. True story. They sincerely believe they are hearing the answer to their questions and interesting commentary. In the darkness these little bits of humanity are poignant and thought-provoking…

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