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The Caretaker

By Ann Fowler

Unformed words wait for birth inside a time canal,
wisdom processed and expressed, profound uttering.
If I, the poet, could form sentences to separate my life from his,
place disjointed lessons in stanzas or make something beautiful of pain,
then I could begin to find who I have become during his dying,
the dying process of yesterday and tomorrow.
The monster, Alzheimer’s, slithered lazily into our home,
sat unfed during the long winter, watched his victim through half-closed eyes,
stroked his fears with his tongue.  Delusions began.  Memory lessened.
My love inched away from me and sat on the monster’s back.
Then the feeding.  Slowly at first.  I saw him slip inside the monster’s jaws.
I screamed, “Do not leave me.”
He told monster tales- his parents sleeping in our home,
the return of children and voices speaking form empty rooms.
I watched him struggle against the monster’s clenched jaws,
the possession complete, death so far away.
Swallowed whole his bulk swelled the belly of the disease.
I was left with the creature.
Something in the creature’s smile reminded me of a man
who fed squirrels, rode free on a motorbike through Florida orange groves,
knew the forest trees by name, studied the stars, made love to me
and to the whole of his existence
So I stayed.  I listened for his laugh.
I care for the disease,
loved and stroked the lump which represented my husband,
I tended the pain and endured the ranting.
I laid beside the monster at night
and awakened to confusion in the wee hours of the morning.
I forgot who I am.
Surely this is so, because I once knew words.Words are who I am.

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