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Notes From the Dementia Ward

Notes From the Dementia Ward

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Notes From the Dementia Ward

67 pagine
1 ora
Jun 21, 2011


Notes from the Dementia Ward is Finuala Dowling’s third collection of verse following on the brilliant and popular I Flying and Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe. This new collection deals in part with the tragic-comic effects of the inexorable and distressing collapse into senility and the way in which memory and yearning come to the fore as a mix of poignancy and wit. The balance between the grim and the touchingly comic is delicately maintained and the subject is imbued with dignity and grace. The dementia poems are interlaced with wry, ironic and compassionate poems that are the hallmark of this remarkable poet.
Jun 21, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Finuala Dowling established her literary career as a poet. Her first collection, I flying, won the Ingrid Jonker Prize, her second, Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe, was a co-winner of the Sanlam Prize, and her third, Notes from the Dementia Ward, won the Olive Schreiner Prize. Her previous novels are Flyleaf, Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart, which won the 2012 M-Net Literary Award for English Fiction, and The Fetch. In addition to novels and poetry, Dowling has published short stories in national and international anthologies, and has had plays and skits performed on stage and radio. Dowling is currently Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies at UCT. She has a D.Litt from Unisa, where she taught English for several years. She has also taught English and creative writing at the University of Stellenbosch.

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Notes From the Dementia Ward - Finuala Dowling

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1. At eighty-five, my mother’s mind

At eighty-five, my mother’s mind

When she wanders from room to room

looking for someone who isn’t there,

when she asks where we keep the spoons,

when she can’t chew and spits out her food,

when her last dim light flickers with falling ash

and she exclaims: ‘What a dismal end to a brilliant day!’

when she calls her regular laxative an astronaut,

when she can’t hear words but fears sounds,

when she says: ‘Don’t go – I can’t bear it when you go,’

or: ‘Just run me off the cliff,’

or wants to know how many Disprin ends it,

then I think how, at eighty-five,

my mother’s mind is a castle in ruin.

Time has raised her drawbridge, lopped her bastions.

Her balustrade is crumbled, and she leans.

Yet still you may walk these ramparts in awe.

Sometimes when she speaks, the ghostly ensign flies.

Time cannot hide what once stood here,

or its glory.

Do not think that we are good

or merely tourists.

That which detains us

was once our fortress.

2. Taking


After two years of house arrest –

what they call ‘home care’ –

I take the soiled sheets from my sister,

put them in the machine,

lift the heavy carpet,

break down.

The men come running,

take the carpet from me

(something to do).

Then I steady my mad mother

who, staggering downstairs in her frail bones

and failing sight,

takes me in her arms and asks:

‘What is the matter, darling?

Whatever is the matter?’

3. Shift aside

Shift aside

Those nights I lay awake, calculating our ages:

I was ten to your fifty,

would be fifteen to your fifty-five,

twenty to your sixty.

I pushed them as far as they would

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