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Friday, 18 February 2011

The last time that I saw him - for The Poetry Bus

Like the government, I got this one wrong. I thought it was from the menu of great prompts which 120 Socks put out for this week's Poetry Bus ride. It wasn't, but perhaps I can argue that it's very like them. At any rate, I'm grateful, because by means of it I have been enabled to write the poem I thought I would never write.

You'd never see him but
his cap was on his head.

At meal times it was there -
even at Ascot and
in bed, it was in place.

Ask how he was: "Hard up
and happy, mate!" he'd say.

Not so, when we last met!
Somehow, the phrase had died.

All that was left of him,
it seemed, was that old cap.

It still sat on his head,
and in addition he
had on a too-big shirt,
blue striped, with a long tail.
That was his full attire.
He'd nothing else to wear.

There was no dignity,
the geriatric ward
was sparse, ill cared for, soiled.

They blamed anaemia
(of the pernicious kind)
for all the change in him.
His memory was shot.

Drugged, he hardly knew us,
but knew he was in Epsom
"Where all the horses are!"

Roaming the ward to find
his best binoculars,
last time I saw him he'd
become half stranger, half
the Grandad I had known.

25 comments:

Totalfeckineejit said...

Poignant and sad, life can be very cruel to us sometimes.Tough poem to write.Nicely done Dave. I'm always impressed by how vividly you recall things and how you paint these poetic colourful memories with skillful brushstrokes.It's actually a bullseye for the prompt too.

Jim Murdoch said...

I'm afraid I got Andy Capp in my head right from the start and couldn't shift him.

120 Socks said...

Dave your ticket is perfect, and delighted that you boarded this learner driver bus (with dodgy technology) this morning. But I am even more delighted that you wrote this wonderful poem.

Gerry Snape said...

This is such a moving poem Dave. You have a great way of conveying deep emotion with few words and no sense of being maudlin. Thankyou!

Carl said...

Dave - Wow another really strong one. I think you have reached a point where all those poems that you said to yourself that hurts too much or is too personal that I could never write it are going to bubble to the surface.

CS

Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

fabulous stop along the way..

keep your poetry collection grand.
Happy Weekend.

Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

Greetings, how are you?
Write a free verse 4 Poets Rally, enjoy poetic friends, you are invited!

Hope to see you in,

Love your poetry talent and looking forward to a profound experience with your input.

Cheers.
xoxox

JeannetteLS said...

This one did me in today, and caught me off guard. But that's the way one wants to be caught from poetry. Another powerful work that grabs one's heart from the start, and gives it a squeeze as we exit. Thank you so much.

jane.healy said...

Very sad, many years ago I worked on a geriatric ward - this poem summed it up.

Kat Mortensen said...

I was very moved by this one, Dave as my dad was taken from us by an also pernicious disease - Parkinson's along with a hefty dose of dementia.

He too, had a favourite cap.

This line tells much: "was sparse, ill cared for, soiled."

I like that, "Hard up and happy, mate!" Whenever we asked my dad how he was (early in the illness), he'd say, "Still breathing!" but there was a twinkle in his eye then, at least.

You've done it again, mate!


Kat

Helen said...

Dave, you are going to be the cause of tears trickling down cheeks .... I know I shed a few.

Windsmoke. said...

Dementia and old age go hand in hand sadly and robs you of your fond memories :-).

lightverse said...

Dave - this is so terribly sad! I wish your grandad had been better cared for and I wish he'd stayed in better shape too, as his cap did.

Your words gave such a tug on my heartstrings.

Dave King said...

Totalfeckineejit
Your last sentence cheers me no end: I had thought it was a miss for the prompt. Thanks for that and for the rest of your generous comment.

Jim
You're not too far off the mark, though you miss a fair bit of him. Thing is, he was my Andy Capp.

120 Socks
As I said in reply to TFE, that cheers me no end - actually, writing the poem did. The prompt - or my version of it - gave me the way in to a poem that I had been wanting to write. So much gratitude to you both.

Dave King said...

Gerry
A really encouraging comment. Thanks.

Carl
That would be good. Hope you're right. This one certainly did.

Promising Poets
Good to see you agaain. Thanks for stopping by.

Shall be coming over anon.

Jeannette
Ouch! Well, I seewhat you mean, but don't like to think of me doing you in. Hope not to too great an extent. Thanks thought for the kind comments.

jane
Welcome and sincere thanks for the comment. I guess I was young and not very knowledgeable at the time. It affected me greatly.

Kat
A big thank you for your support on this one. I was slightly worried about that word pernicious. He was said to have had pernicious anaemia, so pernicious is a technical term for a particular form of the disease. I broke the phrase for my own technical reasons - in other words it was a problem that I didn't fully solve. I'm not sure how reliable was the information they gave us - all part of the unease, I suppose.

Helen
Thanks - I think! (or should it be apologies?)

Windsmoke
That is the tragedy of it. So difficult to deal with.

lightverse
Thanks for that. Your wishes have been echoed by all the family.

JeannetteLS said...

Ah, did me in. Well, since I tend to hang me on my cross every night, true martyr that I am... I resurrect just fine in the morning!

Peter Goulding said...

Whoa there - very like my own grandad and touches a chord for that reason. I'm very envious you were able to write about a family member like that. Its the one thing I simply cannot do, even though I've tried many times.

NanU said...

I've been working on a poem about my own grandfather for ages. Between yours and Kat's poems, I'm inspired to get it done today. Thank you!

Titus said...

Straight to the heart with that one. The clarity and directness of the poem lends great strength, and the register is just right.

Lydia said...

Congratulations on this personal and poignant poem. To have held it for long and to give it life here must be a wonderful feeling. I do know it was wonderful to read it, and to meet your grandfather was an honor.

izzy said...

Thank you for this song. I know just what you mean! full of flavor and sad too- I love the binoculars !

Padhraig Nolan said...

very moving, beautifully sketched scenes.

The Bug said...

I like your poem much better than mine - because you have happy memories of the person. It's hard to see them go away like that though...

Jinksy said...

What a harrowing read! But beautifully expressed...

Trellissimo said...

I'm afraid there are all too many examples of this neglect around these days...