The Old Man and his Dearest Wish

(Not a tale from Hoffman, Fontaine or the Brothers Grimm, but a tale nonetheless and it is certainly grim.)

Once upon a time there was a boy who was vibrant; his hair was red and his eyes were huge and the clearest blue. He was spirited and naughty.

His mother was an ogre, his sister too. They didn’t like him, they  ignored him. They were only interested in themselves and eating toadstools. His father was in a faraway land on the other side of the world, while war raged and ravaged.

When he grew up he became a doctor and married a nurse and all was well.

In time children were born and he grew older. His wife became sick and died. He was very sad.

Soon after, his mind began to be disturbed, disrupted, disconnected. At first it was subtle and then it became plain to him and to all that something was wrong. The sophisticated organ in his head was breaking down.

Years passed and then the old man, for now he had become old with white hair and clear blue eyes, had to go and live in a garret in an old house.

He was contented for a while, but then the dismantling in his head became unbearable and longed for death to come in any form – a visitation, self-inflicted. The old man feels very sad and longs for his wish to come true so that he can die and be happy in the ever after.


The complete poems, as is:

The Ashes? 

Where are mum’s ashes?
The blue bag in the cupboard.
Scatter us together.


I saw the cushion
Cover; I asked for it. Something
Mum made to be kept.

Cold calling

Cold calling – oh please
Leave me alone! I don’t
Care about your job.


Ballet class, slogging.
Psyche poked unwillingly. Tears.
Crack! Stuck in the cupboard. 


Catch sight of a grass
driveway. Instant taste of me
8 running, thrilling.

German boy on the tube

He ate the toffee
With such solemnity it
Made me feel so sad.

The dog – Bad Decisions (homage to John Hegley)

We got a dog.
He wanted to be our friend.
I didn’t love him enough.
We took him back in the end.

The dog – Duration

So it turn’s out
A dog is not just for Christmas
It’s for 23 days.

Here I am

I am 50.
I am at a watershed.
Take note. Be mindful.
Forgive me, forgive others.
Never the right time, but always time for me.
If not, what the Fuck!

Magic Encounter

I pull up on waiting for a light to cross the road. A voice behind me says,
“That was a very graceful stop”.
Me,”Thank you”
Her,” I love my scooter, why should kids have all the fun?”
Me,” Quite. Do you slide on your trolley at the supermarket?”
Her, “Yes”.

Then we high-fived each other.
She was 65ish well dressed, good hair cur, zingy.

Matisse Matisse

Diving into a beautiful pool.
The colours, the light, the spaces between.
Delicious, a feast.

My Worn Out Hips

I have two hips
Two hips I have.
Two hips are worn
Two hips I mourn.
I’ll get new hips.
First one then t’other.
One big op
And then another.
Matching scars
Each side of my arse.
Well, I suppose there’s
Something to be said
For symmetry.

Culbin Sands

A flutter, a sandpiper on the shore scowering.
We are wedged in a cleft.
A small flotilla passes by.

10.4.16 me and Him

I write and he digs.
We listen to the Archers
And birds in the trees.

How I eat

I eat compartmentally,
I enjoy it like this.
No time spent assembling
The food in my fork.

The Boys

I have 2 brothers,
2 brothers I have.
1 moderately good,
1 quite bad.

It’s all up to me
To look after Dad.
I do do this,
But it makes me sad.

Thank God M Chester
Is an earthly saint.
He listens to Dad,
Drone on, no complaint.

I long for a sister
To share the burden.
But as there is none, I
I must do my bit,
My duty and face it.

Hammersmith, walk to tube

Pavement, pigeon.
Feathers fluffed against the cold.
Unattractive fowl.


It is often the
Smallest thing that opens up
The floodgates of grief.

Mind the Gap

Please mind the gap between,
Between me and you;
The expanding and contracting gap between
Depends on size of neighbour, oh and familiarity.


Red arm dividers
Between the seats; do not cross.
Space is premium.

Bed changing

We cast the duvet
Fisherman-like over the
Spread of cotton sea.


Sky high the planes are:
Beautiful trails travelling
Bisecting the blue.


Biking,  freewheeling.
Performing a serpentine
Slalom round gum marks.


And yes, you know what?
I am upset about my Dad’s
Slow-mo destruction.


We have a motor,
A Multipla; it’s a car,
But rather crappy.

Title TBA

Sometimes I just want
Him to turn the editing
Switch back on again.
Don’t tell me again
Everybody is dead,
Or you want to die.


I lie in in the bath
And stare out through the Velux
As clouds pass by.


Looks and sounds ugly, but
It means beautiful

Afterlife; After Life

A life ends,
An end of knowledge, experience.
The dead become a marker,
A beacon on the horizon.
The afterlife is for the quick,
The new life after life.
An existence, once imagined, which must include
The lack of the dead – a permanent lacuna.
In the inexorable continuance
The beacon slips slowly over the horizon’s curve.

Dressing Room: Nutcracker 2015/16

Sitting in the blue
Chair, pretend to write haiku.
See I am ignored.

(Oh I wrote one!!)


Corridor, pausing.
Punch in the code, press enter.
Heart racing, no spit.


I wish I’d a thicker carapace,
I dear mine’s rather thin.
I wish I had a braver face
Not let the bugger’s in.

I ask for one show
And get given two
And then I have three shows
Whoop diddlee ooh!

A phone call, an email,
Missed messages; a to do.
I’m now back to two shows
Whoop diddlee ooh!

I’m fine and I’m happy
With the two shows I have.
Barb’s thrown her toys
Right out of the pram.
Two shows and my name in the programme,
The high ground is my ground.

One about mum..
Pride and Predjudice BBC 1 September 1995 

We watched it on the telly
We loved it P and P.
The opening credits with those rolling piano notes and embroidery.
Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcey.
We loved it P and P.
We looked forward to Sunday evenings,
 The children all in bed. That look over the piano.
We loved it P and P.

Mum was alive when it started, but dead by episode 3.
An ordinary death in so many ways,
But the death of my mum. I remember thinking,
Wow! She did it.
She would have loved it too, P and P.

We bought the video for Christmas
And introduced the kids to the wonders.
Connie, aged 5, made her friends watch it and laughed at all the jokes.
She loved it, we loved it P and P.

We still watch it sometimes to comfort and amuse.
I never forget that mum is dead,
But this is a good memory from that time.
We loved it P and P.

After our holiday in Puglia 2015

I miss the sea, the blue rhythm-
Again and again
And round and round
Sun, sea, blue, bliss.

Excruciating Youth: Stockholm 1983

Disappear and attract no attention.
I felt so enormous, vulnerable, hideous –
a seemingly never ending daily experience.
Solution; buy a great big blue boiler suit.
It fitted all the criteria,
Blue ( a tick after these 4 )
Cotton ( natural fibre )
Facilitate hiding.

Even at the time I knew.
It was a ridiculous piece of clothing and yet-
I needed it. I wore it with red patent shoes,
Sort of like a smartie.
Might as well have worn a fucking curtain.
I became encapsulated in the blue;
A re-tipped, blue capsule.
It protected me; I needed it.

The capsule began to split in the summer of ’84-
It took a couple of years for me to emerge fully,
2 years to allow access,
Me to me, me to others, others to me.
I stopped wearing the outfit.

The Pauline Boy

A posse of Paulines we’re heading to Hammersmith,
I was pulling out.
They continued they’re determined, well worn trudge.
I let them pass.
Amongst the small crowd one boy stood out,
He looked at me,
We had a silent exchange, understood each other perfectly.
I pulled out.
After they had passed by he turned and smiled.
I smiled, he will go far.

The Findhorn – August 2016

On the banks of the Findhorn,
The rain speckled sand on the little beach
Has been boot churned by our picnic activity.
Depressions, shaped by boot treads, turned into waffles.
Like all sand, this sand is ever shifting.
Avalanches cascade from the from the cliff face –
Sometimes, just one tiny grain falls to the base.
Flies land and take off.

A silver moth has landed,
I blow it gently, it remains.
I notice one wing is poking straight up.
It will die as as flight is no longer an option.
My dilemma is whether to end or prolong it’s misery.
I pick it up and pop it into the flow.
A final sea bound journey, worthy of a norse goddess.

And still the the sand grains shift and fall.
And soon the boot scarred( ruptured?) beach will appear smooth again.
Look closely; the sand is shifting.


The Hall’s walls are peppered with marks;
Smudges, scrapes, gashes, stripes.
They tell on us,of our inhabiting.
This domestic patination is ours.
This is where we live.

For now-
We have marked it out, not for all time,
But for some time, our time.
An era, a period in which the offspring
Have sprung inevitably.

Repainting will happen ,
The walls will be white washed, washed over, washed out-
A new period.

The first smudge will appear
And it is always a disappointment.
This is a temporary phase-
A new patina will develop until the process is repeated.

Saturday mornings

Hiding my tears
Behind the lifted high
Family section of the Guardian.

The change in my landscape.
 I have been unleashed
From my parents.


Our guides.
Parental geography;
Skitterings on the map,
Vast and wide,
Narrow, grooved and rutted.
Leading us like migrating beats
Searching for sustenance-
Unspooling Ariadne’s yarn.
A series of repetitions, adjustments-
Major and minor.
A protracted handing over.
We follow, see, look, listen, learn-
Repeat or deviate.

Presents: two acts of love?

3 of us, the boys and then me.
Of presents given by the elder I have no memory,
I do remember 2 given by the other.
Bright in their technicolour,
They stand out, they say i like you.

The red lollipop, exotically French,
A long drop strawberry tasting one.
An emblem, a shield,
A confectionary communication of filial attention.
He likes me?

Bubble bath, Christmas, i was 10.
Cork top, peach perfumed, glistening, swirling, viscous.
He likes me?

Now i reflect; he did buy the lollipop,
Did mum buy the bubble bath?
May be, probably?

It doesn’t matter.
I liked him for years.
We had fun sometimes,
Played cricket and cards,
Then bating followed by a fight-
Full on – I really tried – i lost.
Sibling rivalry-
This filial river, a series of rapids,
The odd pool of calm.
Yet the lollipop, the bubble bath.
He liked me once, he liked me twice.

Raindrops on Glass

We have new bedroom blinds,
Pulling on the cord to raise is still novel.
The north light flows
Bringing the sky patch, the weather and the lime tree.

This morning the glass is rain drop dashed,
A freckling of plump beads.
I look at and through them
A beautiful distortion in each.

Tongue Twister

Clarabella had two big brothers,
But she said this brother’s bitter.
If she bothered with this brother
He would batter, bate and biff her.
A battering bitter bigger brother.
So ’twas better that she bothered
With the other, biggest brother
Better than the bitter battering brother.

Golden Threads: a Metamorphosis (Enduring love because of what Sarah said years ago)

Balls of wool, paper waistbanded-
Plump with potential.
She knits.
I wait.
Nimble fingers set to work
Practised at their alchemy.
The metal needles clacking-
Rhythmical, percussive??

A deft flick of the wrist
And the ball skitters, spins and spits its yellow issue.
All it’s golden length passes through her fingers.
A fine, sensitive touch.
The needles knit the love, so difficult to articulate,
Into something material, a quotidian metamorphosis.

I asked for and received these love knots.
I wore them and loved them.
The yellow was unravelled eventually
And I have knitted with these golden threads.
Passed them through my fingers,
My fingers- sensitive to her touch, to her.

The Dad section…no title yet, but plenty of ideas. We need to talk about Kevin???!!!

Disintegrating Dad: Song 2014 Spring

Death death
Death death,
All about death.

Money bank
Money bank
All about money and the bank.

All the same
All the same
The conversation is all the same

Navy asbestos
Navy asbestos
All about the Navy and asbestos

Japan Australia
Japan Australia
All about Japan and  Australia
( he has never even been to Japan )

The thing is,
Well the thing is..
It’s unbearable.
A lifetime of conversation
Reduced to this.
To call it a conversation is generous.

Death death
Death death
All about death.

Talking to Dad on the phone:

Bring bring
Bring bring

Me: hello?
Dad: your son Kevin here – loud and confident
Me: silent – oh god.

Blah blah blah for 35 mins…

22.1.15 Dad phone call..

Talking to Dad on the phone
Is like being on a very slow roundabout.
Not much magic, more of a plodabout.
After a while I unhalter, dismount.
I’ve done my bit, he enjoyed it.

The Ashes

Where are Mum’s ashes?
The blue bag in the cupboard.
Scatter us together.

Listening to Dad

Drone drone
Witter witter
Amazing how so many words are used
And nothing is really said.
“I was here and then you came…”
“You see I haven’t any money..”
“Nobody has told me that..”
I tell again and he is grateful, satisfied until the next time.
Then hopefully steered back to
Drone drone
Witter witter

Dad: “What’s this place called?”
Me: “Twickenham.”
Dad: “Chickenham?”

A Shrunken Existence 26.9.14

Dad shows me his electric razor, it is in several pieces and one vital cutter wheel is missing. He has a skim of fine silver stubble – not designer -and he has not shaved for a couple of days.

At first I say I will buy a new one, then I decide to have a go at putting it back together. It is a fiddle and I clean it up with his old shaving brush, ( the one he said would “see him out”) it is sparsely haired now and probably will  “see him out”, as he has shunned it for the electric razor.

I fix it, it works despite the missing cutter wheel. He is chuffed and proceeds to shave, marvelling at my cleverness and pleased to get rid of the offending stubble. A
Diminished existence, but pleasure gained from his shave and my cobbling together abilities.

Dad in a Thai restaurant..

Dad: “which part of China is he from?”
Mark:” Thailand!”

Dignitaxi another Fantasy

3 for Beachy Head please,
Two for the return.

He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember (after Philip Larkin) 10.10.14

Drone and on and on,
Dragging, plucking on a fractured
Kaleidoscope of memories to try to make sense.
He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember.

Telling me about the nurse’s death (Mum)
In a storm and buried in the garden.
Telling me about his father’s death
And the old woman(his mother) who doesn’t matter.
He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember.

I remember, I remember how mum died.
Not in a storm and not buried in the garden.
Her ashes are in a cardboard box
Waiting to be mixed up with his and tossed, scattered is that better? somewhere together.

I remember, I remember the original telling of his father’s death.
The cast has shrunk in accordance with his diminishing, easier that way.
He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember.

Mother Goose’s Rhymes

1 2 3 4 5 once I had a Dad all live.
6 7 8 9 10 now he’s got Alzheimer’s

Hickory dickory dock
You’d better make friends round the clock,
‘Cos when you get old and your brain doesn’t work
There’ll be no one to visit you
hickory dickory dock.

1 2 buckle his shoe
3 4 knock on his door
5 6 pick up the bits
7 8 don’t be late
9 10 repeat again
11 12 he’s not himself
13 14 where’s all my money been?
15 16 who’s that? I’ve never seen…
17 18 what does he mean?
19 20 his mind’s all benty.

Rub a dub dub
3 men (or women) in a tub
Who did they used to be?
A doctor, a lawyer, an artistic director.
And now they’re demented all three.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way dementia goes
POP! Goes the weasel.

Up and down the City Road
in and out the Eagle,
His brain’s not right, he’s  muddled up
He’s even suicidal.
Give him drugs to shut him up
POP! Goes the weasel.

How long will all this carry on?
The pain and raw emotion,
It’s only going to end with death.
POP! Goes the weasel.

Jack and Jill ran up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
By the time that they got there
They’d forgotten what they were after.

See saw marjery door
Kevin has got a new master.
He keeps asking,” when will he come?”
He just wants to die, hurry faster.

Sing a song of sixpence
A pocket full of rye
My dad has got dementia
Do not ask me why.

A shadow of his former self
His brain in a commotion
He’s muddled and confused, upset
Brimful with raw emotion.

He sits up in his garret room
The telly blaring loud
Goes down for his meals
And scoffs them with the crowd.

A perpetual state of present
A state of anxiety
The thing about these rhymes is that
They don’t end happily.

Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with spoon.
The rhyme enjoyed as children for all its nonsense,
No need to alter it vis a vis dad in his state,
This rhyme makes no sense, nor does dad or his predicament.

There was an old man who lived in room 20.
His mind’s not right, got Alzheimer’s aplenty.
He worked so hard, he forgot to live
For the end to come now, what wouldn’t he give.

There was an old man called Kevin
Alheimer’s is doing his head in.
With most of his breath,
His talk is of death
And to go out feet first in a coffin.

Snakes, more snakes and very few ladders

His brain is shrinking
Rattling inside his head.
Missed connections,
Unbridgeable gaps,
Sometimes after a long ramble
There is a sudden spark, clarity,
A name, a place pops out.
A spiteful game of snakes, more snakes and very few ladders.

I have to play too,
Compelled to fill in the gaps
In that still well formed syntax.
But there are no hooks, or handholds,
No render to support this crumbling brick work.
A crossword with no grid and no clues.
In this challenge I am equally impotent.
The answers don’t matter, ‘cos he can’t remember.
He’s truly in the moment, stuck somewhere on the board.
Doesn’t matter about rolling the dice, there’s only one way out.
Truly in the awful moment.
Snakes, more snakes – no bloody ladders at all.


He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember
But sometimes he will not forget.

Order out of Chaos

Here, look and he pulls, with a flourish, a pair of mismatched socks from his pocket.
Here, look and he removes a small tower of neatly folded napkins from a drawer.
Sometimes sock piles and towers  are dotted about his room.
What does this mean? Though it’s a waste of time asking.
I certainly can’t ask Dad. He can only point to the piles and towers
And has pride in them.
Of course there is order here.
But in this ordering, great disturbance.
The bent, broken brain trying to make sense,
If only I do this, then surely…
I am witness to these little behaviours,
I face it and it faces me.
Dad faces it, he is it and he responds
With the piles and towers.


They’re coming to kill me.
Not today, there’s fish for tea.
Short term solution.


Sometimes I feel haunted by Dad.
Knowing that he hates his life.
Knowing that he fantasises about being killed.
Knowing that he knows that he does not know.
He lurks in corners or pops up when I wake up.
It’s really hard to remember the good bits.
We’ve had them.
This is the grieving ante-death.
It’s complicated, indigestible and I think bad things.
I wrestle, I wrangle.
Really I feel very sad.


His hand dives into his pocket to retrieve an item.
It’s a flannel.
He brandishes it proudly, showing it off to me.
God Almighty!


He is now the doddery old man he used to mimic, when I was little.
I hated it then and I hate it now.

Before: Now 10.8.15

Daddy, Daddy! Watch this dive.
He had to watch hundreds
Each one identical,
The monotony of parenthood.

Now the tables are turned.
No flourishing dives, but
Repeated questions, ancient fractured stories.
The monotony of parental dementia.

The child parenting the child-parent.
Buying new slippers online from M&S.
Buying a curry and a creme caramel to feed him up.
Making life and death decisions.

Turn back the clock, rewind
To the Dad who watched my dives,
Did flourishes with marmalade on toast,
Turn back the clock, rewind.

15.9.15 said during a walk on Wimbledon Common with Connie

“I’m not a complete surface…”

My father’s pretty successful attempt to articulate his condition. His language and vocabulary have diminished and yet, like a small child, he is able to describe himself pithily.
Minutes later he performed one of his flourishes and brought forth a pair of Christmas socks with pride from his jacket pocket. Needless to say, I did not buy these.

In response to another death and dying announcement I said, “But you are alive now”.

After a brief pause he said, “Sort of.”

Smart and great timing.

Alzheimer’s: A Life?  18.9.15 thoughts 

Kevin’s life is on repeat, repeat. The monotony of existence without punctuation.

Wake up each day and it’s the same as the last. Struggle to interpret the world around him. Struggle to articulate the world in his head, which at some level makes perfect sense, hence: ” I am not a complete surface” pithy and articulate. Retrieved with seemingly no effort.

Much like a child, when all attention is focused on home he is fine, but when it is withdrawn he becomes withdrawn and can get agitated. The look in his eyes is brightly focused, but it is a through-look; impotence – his and for those around. A simultaneous equation with no solution.

I know he is pretty pissed off when he does not wake up dead. Mightily pissed off and bored beyond imagining.

Poem on the above…

My Dad’s life is on repeat repeat
Getting through each day.
Struggling to interpret the world around him.
Struggling to articulate the world in his head.

And yet- “I am not a complete surface” is pithy.
The monotony of existence without punctuation,
Because he CANNOT remember.
He is impotent.
There is no solution to this equation.
Well, there a couple;
one is the chemical cosh he consumes each day
And the other is his ending. End. Fin.

Song, well a ditty. Honestly…unpalatable desires. 24.9.15

My father wants to be dead, dead,
My father wants to die.
I want my dad to be dead, dead,
I want my father to die.

He wakes up each morning alive, alive
And he longs to wake up dead.
If his organs were failing, he’d get relief
To kill the pain and then him.

But Dad’s agony’s in his head, head.
The torment of being alive.
His brain is falling to bits, bits.
How long will it all go on?

My father wants to be dead, dead
My father wants to die.
I want my dad to be dead, dead
I want my father to die.
The Old Man and his Dearest Wish

( Not a tale from Hoffman, Fontaine or the Brothers Grimm, but a tale nonetheless and it is certainly grim.)

Once upon a time there was a boy who was vibrant; his hair was red and his eyes were huge and the clearest blue. He was spirited and naughty.

His mother was an ogre, his sister too. They didn’t like him, they  ignored him. They were only interested in themselves and eating toadstools. His father was in a faraway land on the other side of the world, while war raged and ravaged.

When he grew up he became a doctor and married a nurse and all was well.

In time children were born and he grew older. His wife became sick and died. He was very sad.

Soon after, his mind began to be disturbed, disrupted, disconnected. At first it was subtle and then it became plain to him and to all that something was wrong. The sophisticated organ in his head was breaking down.

Years passed and then the old man, for now he had become old with white hair and clear blue eyes, had to go and live in a garret in an old house.

He was contented for a while, but then the dismantling in his head became unbearable and longed for death to come in any form – a visitation, self-inflicted. The old man feels very sad and longs for his wish to come true so that he can die and be happy in the ever after.

Birthday Poem: 17.3.16 Dad is 85

I made a coffee cake,
To take up to the home.
I did not want to go.
I did go in the end,
I took it to the home.

Flo came with me as well,
We walked along the Common.
Each had one gnarly hand,
He clasped them very tight.
He hugged them to his chest,
He voiced his love for us.
We checked for roots and bumps,
We looked at dogs and ducks.

We went back to the home
Along the path and road.
I punched the access code,
We went inside to wait
For them to bring the cake.
It came out flaming bright,
We sang the birthday song,
He sang it too and grinned.

He coloured in a picture
While I fed him the cake.
He liked it very much,
He had a second slice.
He sensed we soon were off
Said he had not a clue,
What’s he supposed to do?
His face and eyes and mouth
Drooped down, lost all the shine.

The party’s over now,
A small morsel of memory
Which could be accessed by
Licking the little smear
Of icing on his chin.

Frustration, Shift, Pulling buttons off his Shirt 22.316

My father’s sits quietly,
He looks smart, well turned out,
His shirt neatly buttoned up under a blue jumper.
His glasses are clean and rather stylish;
They are in fact Prada-
This is not a fashion statement,
But rather a naughty optician making him spend lots of money.
The Prada logo is now obliterated
By a piece of paper bearing my father’s name.
There is a sudden shift, a dipping of mood.
He pulls, first at the jumper,
Whose neck is flexible and can take the strain,
Then his hands switch to the shirt.
Here he tugs until the pops the button and rips the fabric.
This is not the first time he has done this,
But it is my first time seeing it.
His face contorted with the strain and effort.
One of the few way dad can express his frustration.

Disappearing Dad 9.4.16

At ballet school we were weighed twice termly,
An event uniformly dreaded.
We would try to guess the evening
And in anticipation scrimp on supper.
What a waste of time.
Our substance measured, our bulk, however insubstantial.

Now my father is weighed monthly.
As his poor brain is shrinking, so is he.
He was never large, but he enjoyed scoffing.
Not any more.
His neurological substance is matched the physiological,
An echo of each other.
His substance measured, or bulk, however insubstantial.

Fantasy: thank you, or sorry,  Elizabeth Barrett Browning 9.4.16

How do I kill thee? Let me count the ways.
Well, let’s see now; there are many, none is right.
A prod, a push and none will gain me praise.
Surprise you, give you a terrible fright.
Oft thought on, imagined for a while now,
One of my fantasies; a bit like yours.
You long for your death to come any how,
You’ve asked me to kill you. My nature, my core’s
Desire is to help you, but I can’t so
Must leave it to nature, the course of your death,
Try to ease your time and help it to go
Smoothly and gently until your last breath
Leads you off, free, unburdened, lets you through.

Dad: My Muse 10.4.16

When you think of a muse,
Something classical, Grecian springs to mind.
But my muse is my Dad,
White haired, aged, dilapidated, incapacitated.
This phase has inspired me,
It’s my way of coping with watching and waiting.

Saturday Morning: Visit 16.4.16

We set off in the car
Each Saturday morning
To visit my Dad
At the home.

The feeling is always,
What a bore, what a drag,
A doom laden trip
To the home.

We get there and sometimes
He’s perky, but mostly
He’s grim, yaks of death
In the home.

How long will I be here?
I don’t know, say I back.
He just wants to sign out
Of the home.

We take him for coffee
And some sort of sweet eat
Cajole him, then off
To the home.

I take him back inside,
Sit him down on a chair,
Say goodbye, see you soon
At the home.

The visit is over
Relief mixed with regret.
Good enough solution
Cos there ain’t no path back
To what Dad called Home.

Poem: a sonnet

With all of his muster and might, with the
Little cluster of neurons still firing,
My father’s resolve is to die; to call
It quits and his resolution, his plea
Must go unanswered, though certainly heard.
Some relief will come, he will dissolve more;
This dissolution will pacify him,
An easier path, less agitation.
His quitting will be acted upon him.
He will follow, a passenger loosened
From the grip of his faulty(fragile?) mind,
To a state of final acceptance.
One will come to absolve him, pray, anoint;
Absolution donated and received
Gracefully and at last he’ll quit his post.


Custard reams for tea
Consumed on automatic,
No pleasure involved.

The tea is awful,
The coffee even worse,
But they all drink it.

Ruination, decrepit.
Words to describe Dad.

The Last Christmas Card 2014

Sorting through old papers in Dad’s room
I found his pile of Christmas cards.
At the bottom I spied a red envelope with stickers on it,
I had a look inside, opened the card and then I shut it.
Then I tore it up and threw it in the bin.
The card said, “To Claire (spelt wrong) Happy …love Dad”
And such wobbly writing.


There is the then Dad/
The now Dad, either way;
So hard, it is awful.

The Tree

Speeding past the common,
The trees are youthful and vibrant in their springtime;
Marking time.
For 3 years I have whizzed last to see Dad.
We often comment in them,
He likes trees.
Today I saw an orange one. Odd!
Of course, it’s dead.
It was luminous in its deadness,
A stark contrast to the spring greenness of the others.
Dad is like this,
The shuffling, waiting for death man,highlighted in his decay,
Death amongst life.

My Dad has Alzheimer’s (for my brothers)

Part 1

Not for the faint hearted;
This is something that presents face on-

You can run, but you can’t hide,
You can stick your head in the sand,
But you will come up for air.
Try these and any other tricks, go on!
You will be got in the end-
Made to look, made to see.

Part 2

Piecing together is the hardest thing for Dad,
The flow has gone.
Language has been slashed.
Brain-bridges are scarce.
The geography has altered like storm blown desert dunes.
Navigation is challenging for him and for me; no map here.
Real conversation ended long ago,
Hence gestures and mime.
They have replaced a well told anecdote, comic timing.
I navigate us now, he and I,
The pilot of the lighter on these uncharted waters.


Prifk- Dad’s word for I know not what.
Uttered clearly amongst a scattering ,
A jumbled mumbling while getting into the car.

Fun phone call.

Kevin the Stripper.
Kevin the Lothario, going into ladies rooms.
Kevin the pisser.

Firsts and Lasts

Every first for me means a last for Dad.
Cutting his nails, taking him to the loo.
Answering questions and on and on, from now on.

Niederegger marzipan,
Has, until now, been his favourite.
The go to present for birthdays and Christmas.
I even fished a marzipan pig once.
I took it from a shop in Germany.
I got away with it and he ate it!

I always hated it,
But now I find I quite like it.
Perhaps the marzipan baton has been handed over
And only one of us could be the bearer-
Dad handed it over in a smooth exchange
And I took it.

Oh Dad

A Child’s world is all about newness, discovery.
What is the opposite of ‘discover’?
I looked it up:
And bedim, that’s it;
My Dad is bedimming-
Words, REAL words, everything Him.
This bedimming is a protracted fade out.
He will be destroyed, lost,
Hidden, entombed by the cloak of dementia.


I love the smell,of TCP-
The blend of being hurt and then the tenderness of the fingers
As they rub in the blob of ointment.
And then comes the plaster- a badge, a medal.

The TCP lived in a tin with crepe bandages,
micropore and a leather finger protector.
The tin is rather beautiful,
It is trying to be Chinese – all back and gold.
There’s an ancient scene of fishermen on a lake.
It’s one of the things I wanted from my parent’s house.

I take the lid off, plunge my face in,
The smell is there – I love it.
It is exquisite, love and pain.
I repeat the plunge.

Soft Shoe Shuffle

Dad walking, a soft shoe slipper shuffle –
A two step,in slow time.
He is earth bound as he shuffles along.
He leans as if into a force 9 gale.
It is quite an effort for both parties.

Rectangular Death

Rectangular death –
Now that’s the way to go;
You live and then you die.

Hypotenuse death –
Is very much not to be wished for;
You die, but you live on.

Rectangle for me please.
I care not for the long slide.
Short sharp and cliff like.

An angled trajectory,
No thanks Mr. Pythagoras.
I’ll keep it square ended.

I Wish, I Wish

I wish I could tell you that I feel a warm glow of love for Dad,
But I can’t
I do feel tremendously sad.

I wish I could tell that I see through Dad’s Alzheimer’s
To the man he was/is,
But I can’t.
I do see into those blue eyes, blank or lit up.

I wish I could tell you that I know what to do with Dad,
But I can’t.
I have no idea what to do, I make it up.

I wish I could tell you that I think Dad’s life is worth living,
But I can’t.
I think he has a horrible miserable life and wants it to end.

I wish, I wish, I wish –
It’s all a waste of time.
It is, it is, it is.
I do know,
I do think
I do see,
I do feel.

Moving day

The man in room 20
Has moved to room 1,
So room 20 is empty
And soon he’ll be gone from room 1.

He has checked in and waits in the departure lounge.
The countdown has begun
And now the wait.

Popish Nod

I ask Dad a question,
He inclines his head slightly, chin left and then raises it.
A sage, a popish nod.

And Another Thing

Dad’s wearing lipstick.
A luminous pink stain
Dashed across his lips.
Chemical coshes come in this shade.


What not to see?
What not to hear?
What not to say?

See all,     ) and then do the opposite,
Hear all,   ) sugar the pill, for me    Big brackets here as in my book also a pic of Dad
Speak all. ) and then everyone else.

End Plan

Do I want to be there?
If I am there, I am there.
And if I am not, I am not.
That is my plan.

Departure Time/ The Bout 

The long anticipated phase is here.
Worse/better than all my imaginings.
All is in place, ship shape,
Dad has checked into the departure lounge.

It is an admixture of the mundane and extraordinary;
Put his glasses on, be the witness of the Last Rites.
The last dregs of Dad slipping, crumbling away-
And yet a fist appears, a right hook, some fight left,
Not going gently.

Why won’t he give up, throw in the towel?
Dad in his bout v death,
Up against the ropes, the bell ringer poised,
But Dad, my Dad, is not done yet.

I still watch and wait,
Smile at him,
Watch and wait.
Each time I leave a say a last goodbye.


Thickened water looks like spunk.
This provided some amusement
for me and Jackie from the Hospice.

Still Here

He is still here.
2 weeks into the starvation phase,
He is still here.
We’ve all visited and said goodbye.
I have said goodbye 16 times so far,
I will keep on saying it.
He is still here.
He is slipping off,
Slipping down the slippery slope,
Very slowly in s l o w   m o t i o n.
He is still here.
Existing, dying and eating repellent banana slop.
Please let go.

Dress code ( for the ease of personal care)

Dad’s pyjamas are on back to front.
He looks like a dentist.
I tell him.
I’m sure he is amused somewhere.
He always hated the dentist,
Hence his truly terrible teeth.


Dad fought all the way. No!
Not the disease.
He fought off the helping hands.
He punched as hard as he could.
His skeletal frame summoned up the strength
And he punched.
His response to the indignity of nappies,
Of lying on a plastic inflatable mattress.
He punched as hard as he could.


The grief. I need time to sit with it.
Get to know it, feel it.
Not to be rushed – attend to it.

His skin, his skull.
The skin that contracts/clings to the skull.
His eyes sinking into their sockets.

The smell of the laundry product.


My Dad is now dead.
He is gone, he’s still here. Me?
Sad, relieved, released.


Mum and Dad’s ashes are in their old laundry basket.
United temporarily in wicker.
Soon to be scattered together.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday

It is Tuesday
I know death is near.
He is not comfortable.
I am not comfortable.
He is coughing, choking, chesty,
But in a space of calm
I put on his glasses.
His hands reach for them
He smooths his hair.
It’s sort of comforting.
He looks at me and I receive a smile.
It is the last smile.

It is Wednesday
Try to feed him the gloop.
One spoonful, another, another.
Another one Dad?
He turns his head and snarls.
It is a shock,
I flinch.
I say goodbye again.
I leave.

It is Saturday morning
I am back. He is still here –
Sort of.
He is calm – his breathing is shallow, rapid,
Up down up down up down.
Dad is a hostage to nature.
He is shrink wrapped, almost part of the bed.
His skin, his skull, his eyes,
So deep in their sockets now.
I kiss him on the forehead.
I say goodbye Dad for the final time.
I walk out of the room.

It is Sunday morning.
I am back.
He is not here.
The blow up lilo ripple bed is stripped bare-
Of bedding, of him.
There is a rushing, hissing sound.
I yank out the pipe from the lilo.
Enough! It has served its purpose.
We pack up the last bits and bobs.
There it is!
His beloved, much-darned, full of holes Guernsey.
I put it in a bag.
He will wear it one last time.

The Ashes – part 2

Post Morton, post funeral, post cremation-
I have his ashes.
I paid the bill and collected them.
They are very heavy,
In their oxblood shoe polish coloured box.
They sit together with mum’s.
I feel a vague disgust.
I am the caretaker,
I will look after them.
I feel the sadness when I see Dad’s empty shoes on the landing.

Visiting Hours

The bed with Dad in it.
The chair with me on it.
Lying there.
Sitting there.
Talking to him
Telling him not to hang about
He smiles, mischievously,
He gives a thumbs up.

Drawing him,
Listening, watching.
How long should I sit here?
Looking, seeing.
It’s awful,
It’s boring.
The more I go,
The thinner he gets.
He has become a husk
On this ultimate starvation diet.
Occasionally I check his pulse.
It is so ploddingly slow.
Eventually I decide to go.


Who killed Kevin?
His brain dunnit.


How does grief look?
It looks like me.
Would it help if I was grey and drawn?
Make you feel better?
Well this is how grief looks,
How my grief looks.
Grief makes its own way on and out.
I am not crying, beating my breast,
But I am grieving.
How does grief look?
It looks like me.

End stage Alzheimer’s 

Dad’s heart went wrong
His brain forgot to communicate with it,
Alone now, it continued to beat out a rhythm-
Very slowly.
Sliding down the last slithering snake on the board.
He surrendered to this phase,
Slightly cheerful at first,
Bright blue eyed.

As the slow beating time progressed
Dad diminished.
His deterioration,
His discomfort,
Resounded in the room.
His signals reduced to a nod or a point.
Except for the vigorous punches at changing time.
Dad in nappies with his shirt on backwards.
I know he knew this.
I know he hated it.
He felt pain, he felt anger.

He received the last rites.
I was the witness, the spokesperson-
The priest was perfunctory.
It was a disappointing display of lovelessness,
And all over in a flash,
The priest scurrying away.

All the lasts, again and again,
Until Dad is unravelled-
Like my kite string,
Suddenly down to the knobby cardboard tube,
Only this time, there is no knot
And he is taken off – at last.

To the tune of Lloyd George knew my father…

Alzheimer’s killed my father,
It made his heart go slow.
Brain heart function stopped working
There was no to and fro.

At first he was quite cheerful
With thumbs up signs and smiles
But then it got quite nasty
Until the calm at last.

Funeral Garb

I took the clothes to the undertakers,
The ancient, beloved Guernsey,
a blue checked shirt, trousers
some new red socks and boxers.
Rather like the old rhyme goes:
Something old, something new,
Something borrowed (the boxers),
Something blue, likes a brides garb.
Could it become a thing?

The Ashes

Poured carefully? into a paper bag, put in a box.
Powder, grit grey.
What would the collective noun be?
A deadness of ashes?
I see dead ash grey on a nearby house.
Why would anyone choose that?
I see it on an apartment block in Berlin.
I am seeing through a grey bereaved prism.
Not everything is grey, I see a yellow, a pink one.
Grief is a shifting time.
It’s liquid will run/fund its course.
Not everything is grey.
There are shafts of beautiful light.

Emily Blunt’s Face

I wrote a poem on Emily Blunt’s face.
It was there in the review section
And I needed something to write on.
There was plenty of space,
It was a big picture.
Emily has a great profile
And I don’t think she would mind.

The Pill Collectors

If I get dementia, we all say,
I would collect all my pills,
For the time when they are needed.
Yes, that is what I would do.
My friend says her mother is doing it.
This is all well and good
So long as the pill collection can do the job.

My father only had, Alzheimer’s.
Below the neck he was quite robust.
The only pills he consumed were calcium.
I picture Dad with his stash, overdosing.
Turning into chalk.
A chalk man.
And then dissolving, crumbling
Into a bright, dusty pile
To be dispersed by the gentlest of zephyrs.

Tell tales/Inheritance

My dad was a Viking.
How do I know?
Red hair, blue eyes
And Dupuytren’s Contracture;
So I am a Viking too.

Richmond Park: a lament??

Richmond Park,
Richmond Park,
I love quite near.
Place of green.
Birds, trees, deer, ferns, people, dogs, runners, bikes, ducks.
I tramp on the open greenness rarely.
This is sacrilege; I should confess-
2 Hail Marys and 1 Our Father?

Once on a walk the long grass undulated
A wavering rhythm,
I mounted a brow and half expected to see the sea, I was disappointed.

I am resistant to the lure of the green
And its beneficence.
Richmond Park, Oh Richmond Park,
It lives near me.

A Vignette

Everyday, casual loneliness;
A homeless man on Shaftesbury Avenue-
So thin.

A German boy on the district line,
Seen years ago, but remembered still-
So separate.

The colossal loneliness of the geriatric window gazer.
A pure seam of purest sorrow and misery.
I look, feel the throb, the prick of pain and accept that I will look away.

Golden Threads: a metamorphosis
(enduring love, because of what Sarah said years ago)

Balls of wool, paper waistbanded-
Plump with potential.
She knits.
I wait.
Nimble fingers set to work
Practised at their alchemy.
The metal needles clacking,
Rhythmical, percussive.

Animated by a deft wrist flicks,
The balls skitters, spins and spits its yellow issue.
All its golden length passes through her fingers.
A fine sensitive touch.
The needles knit the love, so difficult to articulate, Into something material and quotidian metamorphosis.

I asked for and received these love knots, I wore them.
The yellow jumper was unravelled eventually And I have knitted with these golden threads, Passed then through my fingers, My fingers sensitive to her touch, to her.

The Little Escape (a tale of two staircases)

Me and Dad together in the quiet of his room.
A head appears – your brother is here-
He’s gone to the loo,
She knew of the antipathy.

A hasty goodbye to Dad,
I dodged out, I farted for the stairs,
The back stairs-
Up, round, along, pause, check
No sign of him.
A swift descent of the other stairs
And out
Into the car and away.

Morning Crow; Spring

What’s black and sits in a tree?
A crow-
A crow in the morning-
A crow in the morning perched.
Perched in a favourite branch.

I think it’s the same crow,
But then all crows look alike don’t they?
Anyway, I don’t care,
This ink black bird frequents these parts and pauses for a time on the branch.
Resting, overseeing her domain.

After a time she flies off
In the floppy way crows have.
Until tomorrow morning then.

A Crow for all Seasons

A crow.
A crow in winter.
A crow? The crow? A crow. The crow.
It must be the Spring crow.
It’s a plum spot that branch,
Commanding an excellent panorama.

I like to think she is the sovereign of a crow dynasty, Shimmering, majestic in her black raiments, Her plumage.
She is absolute;
Keen eyes scouting, scrutinising,
Seeing off any interlopers.
She sits.
Winter crow.
The Winter crow.

Lulu, an Elegy

I loved playing with you Lulu.
Lulu in a house with a green grass drive And slidy floors.
We would slip and slide,
Glissade across the music room.
I think you cut your head open once.
We rocked vigorously on the rocking horse.
We made daisy chains,
Your dad hated daisies.
We pedalled off to the sweet shop,
Wheels wobbling down the hill
Precarious, exciting-
Chewy, delicious sweets, our bounty.
We bounded and bounced on our space hopper chargers.

It’s been a long time since I saw you;
We were small children
And you are dead now.
We were children-
Still ignorant of what can be-
The pain of being which eventually killed you.

I am drawn to green grass driveways, there’s one in Chiswick, The joy of playing with you is encapsulated there.
Lulu; in a house with a green grass driveway.

The Gift

Ian Davidge,
He sold us our car.
It’s a VW Polo.
Along with all the sales talk,
To which I did not listen,
We were given a bag of cleaning kit;
Now known as Ian’s pouch.

The special glass protector
Was applied to our bedroom velux windows.
As I languished in the bath
Fat raindrops sprinted down the pane.
I thought of Ian and smiled,
But I felt a nag of sadness too,
He was so desperate to sell us the car.

The Ashes – Final Act – Seaside Trip

My parents are with me in the car,
Side by side
In the back.
We’re off to Cornwall, the seaside, Booby’s Bay, The best beach in the world- Haunt of my childhood.

I’m honouring Dad’s,
“Scatter us together”, bidding
And worrying a bit about Mum’s distaste for water.
I am excited: I want to see the sea.
I am excited: I want to go to that beach.
I want to get this done.

Scattering day,
Windy, bright, metallic.
Tide going out.
Rocks, wind and froth whipped waves.
We pick our way,
A patch of sand appears-
Mum first- a perfectly timed pouring.
Now Dad- into a receding wave.
He goes, she goes- them , they?
I don’t know.
I am glad I did it.
Efficient, practical.
Mum and Dad would approve.

We were left with an urn, a bag and a cardboard box.
What to do?
We put the bag in the urn and the urn in the box.
Popped them into a bin.
Dad’s bidding complete.

A Remembrance

Collard and Bowser liquorice toffee,
Individually wrapped,
Stripey silver paper.
It was an instant love affair,
My mother was the match maker.
The slender packet,
The ceremonious unwrapping
Revealing delicious, unctuous black chewiness.
Jaws and tongue really working hard, savouring – lip smacking, If I could get away with it.
A confection not to be rushed.
Still my absolute favourite.

Holding Hands

Yours in mine, or mine in yours?
Both. It doesn’t matter.
It’s a good fit.
Should be , we’ve been doing it for years.
The firm comfort found there in that embrace.
We are held and we hold-
Sometimes an equal force,
Sometimes lopsided,
But a force nonetheless.


I like writing on my hand-
The back of my hand, portable vellum-
Lovely writing surface.
Felt tip is best here.
Scrubbing it off when I need to appear grown up.
I love it.
I will always do it,
For the feeling as I write,
For the look of my script-
Temporary tattoo, memo, note to self.

Countdown: Dishwasher tabs

I stand in the aisle doing sums
Staring at the colourful array,
Which ones are the best value?
There’s always an “offer”, but honestly, You need a calculator.
And are these bargains real?
I plump for a packet with 80 tabs for 10 quid.
That’ll do…next…

As I unpack the shop;
Show away my purchases,
I am jolted slightly –
80 tablets- one a day- 80 days.
Tick tick
Life measured, metered out
One red, white and blue tablet at a time.

Sweet white heart cherries,
Ripe shiny plump and juicy,
Me gorging on them.

All delicious every single one
What a batch
Worth every pound.

Fiesta- Vejer

Bumper cars crashing
Crashing into each other.
Chaotic. Joyous.

Love Tide

To and fro, to and fro.
Over time
The love.
To and fro, to and fro
The kids have grown up,
Of course they have,
But still the love.
To and fro, to and fro.

One is mother sick
One is child sick
All part of bearing and being born.
And on it goes
To and fro , to and fro.

Love tide.
The pull and push of the waves-
The timing?
Jump, dive, ride, get dumped.
All of the above.
All that is , whenever.
The timing – the mis- timing
To and fro, to and fro.
The pain in the trough, in the distance
The exquisite ache in the gap
In the gap
But still
The love
To and fro, to and fro.

Family Dynamics: Crescendo – Diminuendo


On Distance

Every now and then I open up Google maps I type in her address Way over there, Over the pond
3 1/2 thousand miles away.
I live where the blue dot pulses,
She lives where the red dot blazes.
Red dot, blue dot; dot to dot,
The blue vastness of the Atlantic between us.
And yet, it is nothing at all.
We are bonded.
We are bonded through long years,
We are bonded.

23 Years On – mum and me

When she died all those years ago,
I thought, “well that’s it then, it’s over”.
It was a bit of a bad ending,
I was furious and that was surprising.
One imagines weeping and wailing,
Bit that took a couple of years.

She did it, she died, she just died.
Confusingly people told me how well I looked.
I’ve seen contemporary photos,
I look odd.

I now have a good relationship with mum, One sided, but I have reflected.
I have reflected.
I have come to an understanding.
I don’t blame her now for actions, words.
I miss her.

These 23 years have yielded revelations, I have turned our relationship, A complex, faceted crystal, Manipulated it, Peered at its shafts of light And I gain always- Understanding, clarity, compassion.
I gain.
I can see the love.