This poem by Kelly Cherry was written about her father, who was a professional musician that succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease. The poem guides the reader through the condition’s progression while also explaining how familiar circumstances and family support can help a sufferer of Alzheimer’s remain functional longer.

He stands at the door, a crazy old man
Back from the hospital, his mind rattling
like the suitcase, swinging from his hand,
That contains shaving cream, a piggy bank,
A book he sometimes pretends to read,
His clothes. On the brick wall beside him
Roses and columbine slug it out for space, claw the mortar.

The sun is shining, as it does late in the afternoon
in England, after rain.
Sun hardens the house, reifies it,
Strikes the iron grillwork like a smithy
and sparks fly off, burning in the bushes–
the rosebushes–
While the white wood trim defines solidity in space.

This is his house. He remembers it as his,
Remembers the walkway he built between the front room
and the garage, the rhododendron he planted in back,
the car he used to drive. He remembers himself,
A younger man, in a tweed hat, a man who loved
Music. There is no time for that now. No time for music,
The peculiar screeching of strings, the luxurious
Fiddling with emotion.

Other things have become more urgent.
Other matters are now of greater import, have more
Consequence, must be attended to. The first
Thing he must do, now that he is home, is decide who
This woman is, this old, white-haired woman
Standing here in the doorway,
Welcoming him in.

You can read more of Kelly Cherry’s work here: