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Poetry and Medicine
August 22/29, 2001

The Alzheimer Sonnets

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(8):892. doi:10.1001/jama.286.8.892

Apple blossoms and a robin's egg sky
as I climbed higher, dizzying me,
until a fleck of bark fell in my eye.
I remember clear and sharp how that tree
shook my arms off its bearish trunk,
and sent me spinning in free fall,
clawing the air before the final clump
my leaden body made. I crawled
across the yard in league with death,
though my child's mind didn't know it.
I choked back tears and caught my breath,
biting down the pain. I wouldn't show it
then, or now, as the words spin
out from my tangled brain—if ever they were in.
The barn swallows swooped low
as we made a sweaty clamor in the hay.
Our first lusting tumbled slow
and musky, morning to noon that day.
That was just before our wedding vows
and that first, unbidden birth.
If I could harvest consonants and vowels
the way I ploughed your riven earth
our first nude morning, I'd be pleased.
The doctors say I'm losing parts of me
with each plaque and tangle of disease,
but I won't feel it. I stay lanky and free
in your hay-kissed arms, where fifty years
pass in an eye-blink that knows no tears.

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