Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poem of the Day

A Friend’s Umbrella

by Lawrence Raab

Ralph Waldo Emerson, toward the end
of his life, found the names
of familiar objects escaping him.
He wanted to say something about a window,
or a table, or a book on a table.

But the word wasn't there,
although other words could still suggest
the shape of what he meant.
Then someone, his wife perhaps,

would understand: "Yes, window! I'm sorry,
is there a draft?" He'd nod.
She'd rise. Once a friend dropped by
to visit, shook out his umbrella
in the hall, remarked upon the rain.

Later the word umbrella
vanished and became
the thing that strangers take away.

Paper, pen, table, book:
was it possible for a man to think
without them? To know
that he was thinking? We remember
that we forget
, he'd written once,
before he started to forget.

Three times he was told
that Longfellow had died.

Without the past, the present
lay around him like the sea.
Or like a ship, becalmed,
upon the sea. He smiled

to think he was the captain then,
gazing off into whiteness,
waiting for the wind to rise.

"A Friend's Umbrella" by Lawrence Raab, from The History of Forgetting. © the Penguin Group, 2009.

Lifted from The Writer's Almanac

Delia and I had a nice visit at Grandma's House yesterday. The nurses were all happy to see me and Delia - we came just at shift change time so we got to see several ladies we hadn't seen in a while. Grandma was in a pretty good mood and we talked to her for a while about our upcoming trip to the beach. She seemed happy to see me, but she couldn't remember if I was her granddaughter or her niece. So we straightened that out. :)

Dad was quiet as usual. Mom says he could talk if he tried, and sometimes I do hear him make sounds so maybe she's right. Still, I have a very hard time making any sense of what he's trying to communicate, and it frustrates us both. He started drawing letters on his palm with his index finger, but I couldn't follow that either. Eventually we struck upon the idea of using Scrabble tiles, and we spread them out on the table and he spelled a few words. It was almost fun, like a game, but there is always this underlying frustration and for me, just below the surface, a nebulous horror. I am working on it, damn me, I am trying to get over it. Some days it is easier than others. I think it would help if we could find a better way to communicate. Ryan suggested a board like we used to play with when we were kids, with a plastic sheet over a slick white surface, you wrote on it with a stylus, and where the plastic sheet stuck to the board, your drawing appeared. Then to erase you just lift the plastic sheet and smooth it down again for a clean writing surface. If anyone knows what that toy is called, or where to find one, let me know.

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