Cross Purposes

I wanted to post this for Dick, whose poem about an Institution profoundly moved me.  This one was written for an end of course assignment, to the prompt:   Old Man.  The original has the man’s thoughts and questions in a grey sans serif font, to show how unimportant hs is in the eyes of the attendant in a care home for Dementia patients, but I don’t know how to do that on WordPress.

Cross Purposes                                 

This is not my life.
I am the boss, aren’t I?
What are you doing?

That Mister Green,
                          he thinks he owns the place.
                          He used to be someone important.

Get me out of here.
They think I’m screwy.
There’s nothing wrong with me.

Here we go again,
                          same as usual:
                          grumbles and abuse.

Where’s my wife?
What’s that noise?
This place stinks of piss.

                          It’s all right, dear.
                          She’ll be here this afternoon.
                          Why do I lie?  She’s dead, I think.

 Who’s she?
Why is she feeding me slop?
These aren’t my teeth.

                           She never comes, anyway.
                           Still, he’s well looked after here
                           and we give them good food.

Who are these people?
What are they doing here?
Who’s taken my things?

                            Comfy chairs, all round the room,
                            telly on all day.
                           Why do they always complain?

Where am I?
I don’t belong here.
Help! Help me someone.
I want to go home…

                           They can come to no harm.
                           Here in the warm
                           they have nothing to do but be.
                           I can’t say the same for me.



All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
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9 Responses to Cross Purposes

  1. Tilly Bud says:

    I remember this. It is still moving.


  2. Jingle says:
    Three awards for you, I value your participation at Jingle poetry during past weeks, hope to see you again tonight. Our theme is love and romance, have fun sharing! xxx


  3. gospelwriter says:

    Good poem on a difficult subject.


  4. Marianne says:

    I am all too familiar with this kind of an exchange. My father-in-law suffered from dementia and my mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease. You have done an excellent job of capturing the confusion and turmoil they tried to work through every day. A very sad piece. Well done, Viv! This reminds me of a cleve poem. I wrote one for NaPoWriMo, Day 14.


  5. So poignant and so real.


  6. Mary says:

    Viv, this is strikingly realistic and very sad. So many people in both of these positions, doing all they can to be. Dementia is so cruel.


  7. Dick Jones says:

    You communicate the ‘dual monologue’ issue well, Viv. Querulous questions from the man whose grip on reason is slipping away and rationalisation from his carer.

    What we really don’t know is the extent to which cogent and coherent interior monologues continue long after the capacity for speech has broken down. It was definitely the case with my mother, as moments of lucidity revealed. But she slipped into dementia a good two or three years before her death at 94. How much this degeneration might have been due to an inability to bring relative coherence in her mind into communication with others is a further mystery.

    As for the insensitivity of carers to the withdrawal of their charges from the ‘real’ world, there’s proof enough from the distressing reports that have come from care homes up and down the country. But my mother was fortunate in having a very high degree of patient, gentle and loving attention right up to the end from her carers and nurses. May we all hope for comfort and understanding when it’s our turn!


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