The following are excerpted from a cycle of poems about memory loss. The author dedicates them to her husband, Peter.


At 81, Writing
In the clarity of early morning
he sits, writing. Sunlight
touches the fine hairs on his arm.
Muscles ripple gently
as he moves his pencil,
the veins on the back of his hand
illuminated. Little rivers.

His worn cap is half in shadow,
his childhood on the farm
a field his pencil plows,
new lines
against furrows of forgetting.
Who can describe the weight of love —
late we learn how heavy,
when grief is the flood we float above
and love is the break in the levee.

And who can take the measure of love —
how wide it is, or how narrow,
when hope is the breath of the mourning dove
and death is the quiver and arrow.
Come To Bed
Come naked into bed, my love —
I will tell you with my body
what your body can understand
even here, where your mind
slips on the slope of forgetting.

Come to bed.
The gift it gives us
we would never choose —
this naked understanding:
how much we have
to lose.
Yesterday, When You Forgot . . .
I felt a slam of anger,
hardening to ice,
cold, heavy,
yet I would not
could not
did not in the least desire
to escape.

I wore it, anger,
like a finest fur coat
in a season when fur
is out of season —
immoral, in bad taste,
dangerous to the world
of diminishing animals.

It is your animal self
that is diminishing,
and I am helpless
to find you
in this jungle
of falling trees.

The voice in me that needs
to comfort you, comfort me,
turned then toward hibernation
until I had nothing
but a howl.

I curled to fetal,
hungered for a cave
so dark I could no longer see
what is becoming you and me.

What is becoming you
is disappearance,
and I am unbecoming me.

Anger felt solid, bold, numb,
as if it might hold me some

I’m already alone.
What’s known to me
can’t be

known to you.
I must protect you
from yourself.

But I can’t know
how far you go
protecting me.

And so
it may be that we
are each already alone.
Old Love
Old love is a ripe persimmon
on a wild persimmon tree.
Love, we are old, have you noticed —
you and me?

And our love is old, and sweet and ripe
on the tip of the lover’s tongue.
Remember, love, the bitter sting
sometimes, when we were young?

But now we have ripened, round and full
of golden sweetness, golden sun,
and we look with surprise at each other:
You are the one.

You are the one, beloved,
we say. Don’t fear the flight.
We’re just taking the seeds of this sweetness
back to the earth’s good night.
For This
It is for this
we have been torn
and mended
and torn again.
This glad rag of my old body
almost every night
pulls itself across a white expanse of sheet
into your arms.

After harms and threats of harms,
alarms on the evening news,
we bear the bruise of knowing
this world that we love
will not be ours to mend.
We bend our bodies into one
and ride the world once more
around the sun.