Worn by remembering, mastered by great age

Alzheimers: Greta
Not seven steps from the familiar geography of her room
her bewilderment sagged on her walking frame
as she shied away from the stern arm
that was guiding her.
She cried, 'Where are you taking me?'
in the fretting voice of a sleepy child;
and I stooped to look for her roseate smile
and saw instead, in the unerring vacancy of her face,
the scattered particulars of her life.

We composed ourselves upon the couch
long enough for her to plead
'But I don't know who you are.'
as she trembled
beneath the insult of my peering eyes
and frowned away;
and I felt a stranger's smile curdling on my face.

In this last patience
she was worn by remembering,
mastered by great age;
as she strained towards recollections of love;
and we sat on the couch,
each perched in our own fierce absence
with the gas fire hissing,
the electric clock ticking electric time,
until, in a small voice from a far off place
she said 'You look just like your father.'

— Grant Fraser
The song

Jack and I, we each sat like houses
apart, our silence sturdy and neat.

Who are you Jack under that grey hoodie,
shading you from the harsh glare of others,

hiding an attic of sins unsung from your rooftop
— a slow blues number perhaps.

Oh Jack, the first time I heard you sing,
your smoky 7th note wept for days,

a crystalline drop that stilled the
white noise of your voices.

— Ignatius Kim

Farewell to my mother

Because it holds you, may I dance lightly on the earth
And when I walk may reverence guide my step
Soft beneath the rain, hardened by the sun
Our human stage, our testing ground,
This earth, this resting place, this sacred space.

— Margaret Quigley


Grant FraserGrant Fraser is a lawyer, poet and filmmaker.

Margaret QuigleyMargaret Quigley lives in retirement on the South Coast of NSW. Her poem was inspired by the recent loss of her 99 year old mother.

Topic tags: Grant Fraser, Ignatius Kim and Margaret Quigley, poetry, Alzheimer's



submit a comment

Existing comments

Poignant moments. Thank you three.
Vic O'Callaghan | 24 November 2015

Your words tug at my heart . . . may MY children love and respect me thus - as I head towards home.
glen avard | 24 November 2015

Beautiful sharing of the heart. Your heart. His heart. Her heart. My heart. And ultimately our universal shared heart. Thank you three.
luke | 25 November 2015

Thank you, Grant, Ignatius and Margaret. James McAuley comes to mind: Not ours to bring to birth That final realm; nor shall our labours build Out of the rubble of this fallen earth The New Jerusalem, which shall never be Christ's perfect Bride save in eternity . But neither are our failures nothing worth: For through our broken effort he prepares The hallowing of creatures that shall bring Eternity upon us unawares Beyond our best hope or imagining. Keep writing, you three!
Frances | 26 November 2015

Thank you Grant, Margaret and Ignatius for touching my soul with love and dignity for all our human struggling gifts
Nance Cale | 27 November 2015

Similar Articles

Hipster heroes of gentrification

  • Charlotte Howell
  • 02 December 2015

I was born into a working class family in Leyton, East London. But in the late 1980s, gentrification in the area forced us to relocate to the poor working class town of Harlow, Essex. In a twist of fate, these days I can't even afford to live there. This time it is not due to gentrification brought about by 'hipster' entrepreneurs, but because powerful construction companies have replaced the historical architecture with new developments and housing estates. I know who I'd rather pick a fight against.


Working mum contemplates balance amid chaos

  • Jen Vuk
  • 27 November 2015

The tweet I sent that afternoon pretty much summed things up: 'Running late for work-life balance seminar. Why? Life, of course.' The irony was not lost on me. While officially I work part-time, I also freelance as a writer, volunteer regularly at my kids' primary school, have increasingly frail elderly parents who I feel terribly responsible for, and try to keep fit and maintain some semblance of a social life. On the day of the seminar on work-life balance, I'd managed to fill my schedule to breaking point.


We've updated our privacy policy.

Click to review