Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Alzheimer's: The Wife by C.K. Williams

She answers the bothersome telephone, takes the message, forgets the message, forgets who called.
One of their daughters, her husband guesses: the one with the dogs, the babies, the boy Jed?
Yes, perhaps, but how tell which, how tell anything when all the name tags have been lost or switched,
when all the lonely flowers of sense and memory bloom and die now in adjacent bites of time?
Sometimes her own face will suddenly appear with terrifying inappropriateness before her in a mirror.
She knows that if she's patient, its gaze will break, demurely, decorously, like a well-taught child's,
it will turn from her as though it were embarrassed by the secrets of this awful hide-and-seek.
If she forgets, though, and glances back again, it will still be in there, furtively watching, crying.

As this poem is found in our course book, Contemporary American Poetry, on p. 430, it caught my eye while I was browsing through it. The title itself caught my eye just because it seemed so direct and straight forward on the subject of the poem. While reading this poem brings back memories of what I had learned in previous biology classes about Alzheimer's disease, it also brings to mind the hardships that I had to go through with my grandfather. Throughout the poem, the reality of Alzheimer's disease has struck the family hard and has ultimately disrupted the harmony of it as a whole. When C.K. Williams writes "when all the lonely flowers of sense and memory bloom and die now in adjacent bites of time?" it seems as if there is no hope for those who have Alzheimer's disease. In general, this poem has a sad and mellow tone throughout its entirety and subsequently creates a sense of sympathy for those who are dealing with the disease. As Williams writes about the stages of Alzheimer's disease and some of the situations that this couple goes through, it is only obvious of his sorrow that he has for people going through this. The imagery in the beginning of the poem when Williams writes about how "she answers the bothersome telephone, takes the messages, forgets the message, forgets who called," allows the mind to wander and truly think about how it is to have this disease. The comparison with "The Wife" to a "well-taught child," is not something that generally comes to mind when you think of someone with Alzheimer's disease. I think that Williams poem brings out the direct and subtle truth of Alzheimer's disease. After reading this poem, I had read the small paragraph containing his autobiography and had realized that Williams' poems were generally focused on those who were less fortunate in society.


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