It’s been a long time since I’ve written here and I’m sorry for that readers—I was working on a major writing project that took up all my spare time outside my day job.
But today I have a fever and am home sick. And what comes with fevers are always those strange hyper-real dreams, you know the ones where you think you are awake they are so tangible? I had one of those today about my mom and it brought me back to the years I was looking after her while slowly losing her to dementia.
Also woven into these dreams were the poems of Ulrikka S. Gernes, a Danish poet, who read at the Vancouver Writers Festival this past Saturday. Her poems have been singing in my head ever since. They surfaced in my fevered dreams like ocean glass and I wasn’t so sad to be sick if you want to know the truth.
She writes in her book, Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments, that “Melancholia has a wide spectrum of nuances and tones and it often evokes a heightened sensitivity.” I felt these nuances today, the curtains drawn, quilt pulled up, dreaming of my mother, her small dog Max, her brittle collarbone against me as I held her towards the end. Don’t think ‘depression’, it’s just a daughter missing her mother when she’s sick. People like to make more of these things than they are—just human moments we all experience and sometimes the way into them, to really feel them, is through a fevered dream.
Ulrikka’s says she will “forever defend melancholia; it has an inherent power to sharpen certain senses that are beneficial to art, to life.” I couldn’t agree more. Herewith, a little poem that came from my memory dream with my mom and her little dog Max and myself towards the end when she was slipping in and out of the now and I was trying to pretend everything was just fine and hold onto her.
I look at your dark moustache as your coffee cup dangles
From your bony fingers, smoke curling into the air
through the dust as it floats
Through a shaft of morning light.
The hairs move like cheerful whiskers,
black and wiry, poking down into your cup
as we talk about the dog , how he likes to bark especially hard
at the man in the motorized wheelchair.
You tell me you sometimes duck your head
under the window to avoid him
or let the dog out to attack his wheels.
This was some time ago but I don’t bring it up.
I help you walk to the bathroom, undo your pants,
let you down slowly onto the toilet
then slip out for a second so you can be alone.
Okay? I say then come back, place your hands on my shoulders
And pull you up. We laugh a little as your pants drop
To the floor and I have to balance you and pull them up in one motion.
I close the lid on the toilet and sit you gently back down.
I’m going to dye your moustache okay?
You seem a bit embarassed but not sure why and
cluck at the dog to come and he circles then sits down at your feet.
I mix the Jolen powder and cream together and apply
the white paste to your wiry scruff.
I set a small kitchen timer for five minutes.
I lean back against the sink and tell you about my son.
He’s four months old now. You exclaim oh oh—
Most of the time you forget he’s been born.
Sometimes you remember and admonish me,
saying of course, of course.
I take the face cloth and gently wipe the paste off then
take you to the mirror. You’re not sure
what you should be looking at but smile at me as though
I have just given you the news we were going on a holiday.
You will have no memory of this tomorrow.
I will hold it inside long after you are gone
like a snowglobe
shaking it whenever I need you.