Poetry Competition 2013 – Winning Poem

Dementia

by Bernard Brooks

After you left me to live with confusion                                              
I brought what remained of you here,
To perch on a green plastic armchair
and shout at the dead and the dying,
Soothed by wafer thin smiles and pills.
 
In your pastel cell you roam oblivion, leaving
a pungent trail of talc and urine,
Orphan memories fall from your perforated brain
scoured by time's corrosive winds,
While bliss and ignorance kiss in the wilderness.
 
Outside, fanatics slaughter innocence,
Floods rise, cities are washed away,
Children die and lovers re-unite,
While through your vacant gaze the
tattered synapse fails to spark.
 
Sitting in a daily circle looking back
like bickering starlings trying to roost,
“Remember how I cycled past your waving window
proud in Air Force grey, then kissing in damp shelters
as bright arcs of tracer connected earth to sky?”
 
Before you left me with your shipwrecked body;
We danced all night long in Parisian bars
walked cliff top paths overhanging the sea
pushed gurgling prams in green summer parks,
Built brand new lives from the dust and the rubble.
 
At first you were gentle with your leaving,
A wrong turn here, a word dropped there,
But intimacy turned to absence as
you fumbled in corners with agitation,
And I looked away down hopes blind alley.
 
With tender memories I re-create you,
Hair, heart, breasts and eyes grow
from the radio's soft intonation,
Lines etched in dust on the sill,
Log fire's lazy grey rivers of smoke.
 
And when you lie with me once more, all
fresh taut skin and clear sparkling eyes,
I'll grab the grey imposter’s sagging throat,
Shake her floppy ragged head
and let the last fading sparks float free.

Added: 13.04.2013

Judges' comments on this poem

02.05.2013

thanks for your carefully honed phrases which underline from the inside the desolation, loss and horror of your situation. got to be no. 1

02.05.2013

Some really poignant moments, carefully depicted.

09.05.2013

Very touching poem and a clear view of the sadness that comes with dementia.

10.05.2013

wow im speechless

10.05.2013

A creative and thought provoking look at a serious topic, great work

12.05.2013

All embracing poem of love and loss. poignant combination of words: Orphan memories/ tattered synapse and 'the here' opposing the 'there'.

12.05.2013

Wonderful images to depict memory -tattered synapses and a scoured brain. Captures the frustration well. But why the absence of apostrophes?

14.05.2013

Some astounding descriptions and the last verse is a great expression of rage but it didn't hold me in the middle of the poem.

14.05.2013

A superb poem. Extremely true to life- brutal yet tender and gentle at the same time. Which is what dementia so often is.

14.05.2013

Very poignant and thought provoking!

15.05.2013

I am there, afflicted and spouse. The descriptions are arrowheads, powerful, beautiful.

16.05.2013

You have graphically captured the heart rending emotion of seeing a loved one fade to oblivion before your eyes.

16.05.2013

An old man has lost his wife to dementia. His heightened perspective is in sharp contrast to her destroyed mind

16.05.2013

Hints of pathos, sadness and regret colour this poem, yet the ending is hopeful. There is yearning for the good old days which is beautifully captured in the last two stanzas.

16.05.2013

Moving evocation of a wife's dementia. Well-chosen images.

18.05.2013

'lines etched in dust on the sill' - beautiful imagery!

19.05.2013

A tale of the frustration and loss bought by the slow creeping theif that is dementia

22.05.2013

I like the conceit of this poem, but you need to sharpen your images. Give them life! They are too generic making them unexciting.

22.05.2013

Excellent description of reminiscing - and, as titled, dementia.

22.05.2013

An emotively descrptive poem reflecting on a very sad issue in some ppls lives.You can feel the subjects bitterness 'after YOU left me' right through to the end with frustration 'grab the ..throat.'

23.05.2013

A long glance cast back through a shared lifetime: poignant and passionate, resonant with a sense of loss brought by a wife's dementia. Very powerful work.

23.05.2013

The language in this poem is used brilliantly and I particularly enjoyed the line "tattered synapse failed to spark".

24.05.2013

I couldn't stop reading and re-reading this wrenching poem. Every word builds the tension and grief.

24.05.2013

A heart-wrenching poem reminding the reader of the cruel symptoms of dementia. Beautifully written it evokes memories of anyone who has ever witnessed someone becoming sick. I thought it was wonderful

24.05.2013

An amazing well crafted poem. A tragedy told by powerful metaphors and rich language. It is evocative and uses a truly effective imagery. With every reading, its message grows more poignant! Excellent

25.05.2013

Very strong narrative thread. Arresting imagery, and verbs: perch, scoured, and roaming. Good contrasts between an inner and outer world.

26.05.2013

Made me sob my heart out. Haunting, from the heart and soul. It reads as if it wrote itself. An important poem.

03.06.2013

I sense a sadness as I read this poem, some of the words feel tragic and others give you a feeling of the ebbs and flows of life. It is lovely.

03.06.2013

very good, worthy of a vote

03.06.2013

a really great discription expressed the realizm of what could be,when deseased nurons degrade tacking with it the soul and the spirit,leaving a charactorless empty vessel,nice read,

03.06.2013

really great flowing poem with good use of language.

04.06.2013

This poem is a very good interpretation of someone coping with dementia. Although, the ending does sound like murder, which puts me off slightly.

04.06.2013

Excellent poignant description of dementia

04.06.2013

i can't cobble words enough together to say how this poem makes me feel. thank you.

04.06.2013

I found this a very effective poem which trod the divide between abstract mawkishness for a soul lost, and the anger and irritation of those that are left, well. Title could have been been better

04.06.2013

the ad point of time passing

04.06.2013

This one hurts to read, but it is so good.

04.06.2013

Anyone who has a loved one in a similar situation will identify with this poem.

04.06.2013

You've managed to bring the bitterness of the loss out through the beautiful imagery, amazing.

04.06.2013

Longingly written - draws reader in - many great well thought out lines

04.06.2013

I think only someone who has lived through this situation can understand how well you conveyed the pain of seeing a love one slipping beyond

04.06.2013

A sad truth for a lot of people

04.06.2013

The tenderness, despair and anger are perfectly expressed

04.06.2013

Invokes emotion well.

04.06.2013

Importance of subject matter managed realistically but beautifully; really emphasises the loss of a person before their dementia overpowers them.

04.06.2013

Eloquent, beautiful, infinitely sad.

04.06.2013

So sad but true-a heartfelt loving kind poem with a remembrance of days long gone.

04.06.2013

painful, yet vividly real.

04.06.2013

clever apporach to difficult topic but spoilt by too many adjectives.

04.06.2013

Sad and evocative. Very well written.

04.06.2013

Evokes the feelings of being caught with time not on your side and memories fading fast. Feelings of confusion tinged with old memories and frustration. Powerful subject which the poem is addressing

04.06.2013

While the theme is not original, the descriptions and analogies are wonderful. I did feel stanza three ran away with itself a bit. A very worthy poem.

04.06.2013

I found this poem very moving through the use of powerful imagery; 'Orphan memories fall from your perforated brain scoured by time's corrosive winds.'

04.06.2013

I have read this many times expecting to become immune to it. But no, it gets me every time. This is my personal favourite from the competition. Thank you so much for writing this. x

04.06.2013

Sad portrait of dementia - moving, but needs pruning! Too many adjectives. Might cut 5th line of Stanza 1, all of Stanza 6. Some good writing though - like 'orphan memories'. Does 3rd verse belong?

04.06.2013

I have read a few poems on the effect of dementia during this judging process and this, I feel, was the strongest of those I read. It is very moving while revealing the reality of living with dementia

04.06.2013

A sad situation is transformed in drops of faith

04.06.2013

A poetic description of the shell we live in and how we can leave it when we're still in it.

04.06.2013

Sad yet beautiful.

04.06.2013

This has some beautiful lines, the assonance in line 10 for example and 'At first you were gentle with your leaving' which would make a fine first line.Truthful anger ending the poem.Like 'imposter'.

04.06.2013

I loved this in the second round and I love it still! A very moving situation captured so effectively in words.

04.06.2013

A lot of interesting thoughts. I kept wanting to stop and think it over and over

04.06.2013

My favorite part of this poem is the opening stanza that sets the tone for what is to follow--an onslaught of color, sound and sensation that moves the reader and touches the heart.

04.06.2013

At first I almost passed over this one. Then I re-read it & was touched by the imagery & feeling; I could imagine myself there in years to come. Great opening line; but perhaps a better title.

04.06.2013

Love, loss, regret, gentleness, memories, truth, poignancy. All encapsulated in eight verses. Undoubtedly the most moving writing I have read in years. I even forgave no apostrophe in "hope's"!!

04.06.2013

A frequent subject rarely so beautifully explored. This poem manages to place a very painful level of personal experience in to a much wider human context to great effect. Made me proud to be human.

04.06.2013

Very sad, moving & evocative.

04.06.2013

Very complete. There is not a section I could fault - very moving and melancholic.

04.06.2013

The most powerful poem in this competition so far. Most vivid description of the kaleidoscope of emotions that dementia evokes.

04.06.2013

A beautiful poem. Well written so that it was easy to understand but also is very beautifully crafted.

04.06.2013

Brilliant powerful and evocative.

04.06.2013

beautifully penned and sincere - extremely poignant and illustrative work.

04.06.2013

05.06.2013

a personal handling of a common theme, shill resonates for a wider audience

05.06.2013

A well-observed poem that movingly portrays the sadness of age and loss.

05.06.2013

A poignant and powerful description of dementia as bereavement - or worse - like a bitter divorce. The sadness, frustration and anger felt by the 'divorcee' was tangible. It moved me to tears.

05.06.2013

This felt like the true sense of Dementia, flooded my mind with memories of what it is like to lose someone to it. Loved it for its truth about a fragile subject.

05.06.2013

Insightful and incisive. Would make it equal fourth if possible.

05.06.2013

Well penned! Nicely used the words appropriately.

05.06.2013

Honest

05.06.2013

sad deep and moving

05.06.2013

Great,

05.06.2013

Very intense, yet I felt a heart wrenching beginning. I felt truth in the words and somewhat reality in this poem. Very moving and descriptive

05.06.2013

The second time I've read this now and still gave me shivers and made me cry. Utterly haunting imagery and use of language. Written from the heart and one I knew would be in the final stage.

05.06.2013

There's a real fragility within this poem that connects the reader with the passion and frustration of the writer until you feel like you're there.

05.06.2013

Sad but, unfortunately,true to life for many.

05.06.2013

Effective, disturbing depiction of the loss of an entire relationship when the persona wants to "grab the grey imposter's sagging throat" to shake her head, to "let the last fading sparks float free."

05.06.2013

A moving and graphic treatment of this grim and all too familiar theme.

05.06.2013

We are sucked into this tight emotional roller coaster by images all to familiar and all too painful to bear.

06.06.2013

Tragic and beautiful.

06.06.2013

Intensely moving, deeply sincere. Images painted with deft strokes as the speaker talks of his lover's dementia, no holds barred. Loved it.

06.06.2013

Terrible desperation inhabits this poem despite the wonderful memories. An old man wants to kill his beloved demented wife.

06.06.2013

heartbreakingly sad and tender, then the ending leaves me floored. Brilliant and hearfelt

06.06.2013

A personal insight to the affect dementia has on the ones left behind. Very well written.

06.06.2013

Beautiful sentiment, brushed with reality. I allowed the images to wash over me. "wafer thn smiles" "bliss and ignorance kiss" I would have liked more rhythm and continuity in its structure.

06.06.2013

A serious but still somehow lighthearted poem

06.06.2013

This is such a moving portrait of the decline of someone to dementia and the effect it has on those around them. I could feel the sorrow, frustration, love and anger all at once.

06.06.2013

The tragedy of dementia handled brilliantly. So many beautiful lines. In fact I love it all

06.06.2013

The conflict between threadbare hope and an iron frustration lays bare the dreamy and joyful past against a harsh predicament. The first para sets it up beautifully & the asides work like a charm.

06.06.2013

A concidered observation of a growing concern.

07.06.2013

Surprising and thought-provoking turns of phrase

07.06.2013

This made me cry, almost, as it dared to express the anger - the wish for your loved one to be set free.

07.06.2013

Raw and powerful yet full of tenderness

07.06.2013

I found the end-game confusing and discordant.

08.06.2013

Excellent poem full of grief, longing and rage. Great opening two lines & terrific, shocking final verse. Less successful when trying to be too poetic like in the first 3 lines of verse 3.

08.06.2013

Very interesting way of depicting demensia. I love the references to her younger life, such a moving poem.

08.06.2013

I found this a very touching poem, it captured the emotionality of the narrator very well and drew me in effectively.

08.06.2013

A topic that most people who have relatives or friends can relate to, and your poem was well-written and stirred, but I had to discount it because, to me, it was a piece of prose and not poetry. Sorry

08.06.2013

Pain and remembered joy deeply thought about and tentatively shared.Thanks for inviting me in.

08.06.2013

Very strong narrative thread, and although a long poem, the reader is pulled along by the narrative of the poem. Arresting imagery. Poignant without becoming over sentimental. Powerful ending.

08.06.2013

Upsetting but true... reminds me of my mum.

08.06.2013

The line "At first you were gentle with your leaving" somehow grasps the essence of this powerful poem, passionate, angry, very real

08.06.2013

'After you left me to live with confusion' is a superb encapsulation of dementia that grips you from the first line & then makes you feel the tragedy of the disease & the desperation of the writer.

08.06.2013

A sensitive and poignant piece that reminds us of one of the problems of aging. I like the sixth verse " At first you were gentle with your leaving, A wrong turn here, a word dropped there..."

08.06.2013

A powerful, well written and moving poem. Some great lines: especially the verse beginning "At first you were gentle with your leaving". Very good.

09.06.2013

"...what remained of you.." says so much about this all too familiar phase in the lives of so many elderly people. The poem is loaded with imagery of these 'homes'.

09.06.2013

anguished, horrific and poignantly told.

09.06.2013

Excellent. Thoughtful, intelligent, well crafted and beautifully captured. Like the images and similes. So well observed, poignant and heartfelt.If you don't win, you must try and get it published.

09.06.2013

Found the final line disturbing after the earlier loving nostalgia> I guess this is the point: the dementia is the narrators.

09.06.2013

Unsentimental, poignant picture of how a person is reduced by dementia. Undercurrents of loss, grief and anger.

09.06.2013

sadness eminates from this poem. The reflection of emotion is felt within every line.

09.06.2013

A powerful description of the decline of a human mind.

09.06.2013

Touchingly real details and feelings. The slightly old-fashioned style suits the characters.

09.06.2013

A sad and moving poem with a twist at the end

09.06.2013

Sad - but a lovely description of a life together. The images are fresh only rarely slipping into pity or sentimentality.

09.06.2013

While a recurring subject matter, deftly handled. Economical yet vital stanzas. Quietly aggressive tone poignantly contrasts with the devastating limp shell now represented by the subject.

09.06.2013

Amazing, I love it.....

09.06.2013

A distressing illness, cleverly described and an interesting read....

09.06.2013

I felt with you the sentiments you described. The best out of the final 12.

09.06.2013

Been bouncing this between 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Each time it is differently striking. Finally gave 3rd as last stanza just slips away from the rest, I think, not in quality but tone. There the anger is.

10.06.2013

This made me cry.The loss and anguish are beautifully expressed set against a picture of what used to be. The progress of dementia is captured perfectly in "intimacy turned to absence" - so sad.

10.06.2013

Brutally honest, real and a somewhat frightening possibility that threatens us all! Paints a clear picture and scene, takes us on a journey of past present and future. Every word absorbed powerfully!

10.06.2013

A poem, expressing in such forceful pangs and images, which grow more evocative with every reading that, despite it being embedded among many beautiful poems, i conclude: deserves to be the winner!

10.06.2013

A very moving yet sad story about loss.

10.06.2013

Wonderful description of an aging demented partner.

10.06.2013

touching.

10.06.2013

Emotive and vivid

10.06.2013

filled me with sadness

10.06.2013

A very well written poem on a very overdone topic, so in this way it was refreshing that the poem maintained a sense of orignality. Could have been number 1 with a good edit.

10.06.2013

Brilliant ! Well done!

10.06.2013

Very difficult topic that takes an interesting turn at the end. I like the regularity in the stanzas and how the poem reveals a life lived to the full.

10.06.2013

Heart-rendingly realistic.

10.06.2013

The middle brought tears to my eyes but the end confused me, it was so aggressive for such previous beauty. Having said that, your passion is undeniable. I'm sorry for your love.

11.06.2013

Read this poem to everyone, so, if it does happen to you or yours, you will understand, still love, bear guilt.

11.06.2013

A difficult subject handled well.

11.06.2013

What is effective is the contrast between the outside world and experiences of the person suffering with dementia. Amongst this, the narrator has lost everything. A shocking yet moving ending.

11.06.2013

I love it, musical

11.06.2013

Very well written moving account of dementia and I found myself reading it over again, each time feeling more moved. The poet uses great imagery and emotion and this is why it ranked high in my top 4.

11.06.2013

A web of tragic details flashing back and forward. Moving and memorable.

12.06.2013

That night, I drank the nectar of dreams, delirious as smoking honey bees. Marvelous imagery!!

12.06.2013

One of the best poems on mental health that I have read.

12.06.2013

Incredibly moving

12.06.2013

many striking phrases - roam oblivion, slaughter innocence, shipwrecked body

13.06.2013

The rhythm of this is a bit off kilter (perhaps intentional reflecting her confusion) but there are some stunning images, 'Orphan memories fall from your perforated brain' and 'tattered synapse'.

13.06.2013

A blend of love and longing, bewilderment and fury. A testament to loyalty.

13.06.2013

Gripping till the end, dripping with visual imagery and pathos

13.06.2013

A clear and sad evocation of two lives, one before and one after. The incorporation of the romantic days in Paris make the now all the more bitter.

13.06.2013

Simply superb!

13.06.2013

a gloomy but effective portrait of disintegration.

13.06.2013

The memories and the pain of losing them are captured perfectly and poignantly here. It forces the reader to think on a wider theme - what are our memories worth when they die with us? How frustrating

13.06.2013

Heart-breaking to read this; great writing.

13.06.2013

Difficult subject handled with honesty and sensitivity.

13.06.2013

Very moving and thought provoking. A true depiction of dementia and all that comes with it. The author describes all the heartbreaking changes that take place, and in so few words.

13.06.2013

As an old traditionalist attracted to the Clear ,precise,and meaningfull. This was a releif from impenitrable murkyness or strangled metaphore that seems to be favoured

13.06.2013

This made me cry on 1st reading and I almost couldn't read it aloud to my partner. It captures the loss of dementia beautifully and the desperation to reclaim that person in the everyday. Superb.

13.06.2013

just like itjust like it

13.06.2013

the frustration is palpable

13.06.2013

The form could be more streamlined. But it conveys a strong man's pain with heartbreaking precision. It is wise to accept the loss, but it is so much more human and brave to be angry and to fight.

13.06.2013

A great poem covering a very serious subject. Both serious and light hearted at the same time

13.06.2013

Tender, poignant, angry: a brilliant portrait of a cruel disease. The imagery ('shipwrecked body','grey imposter')& shocking honesty of the last three lines, contrasted with reconstructed memories.

14.06.2013

I found this poem quite moving as a man describes how he has lost his wife to dementia. Although he despairs at what he has lost he keeps her alive and remembers how she was.It's very well written.

14.06.2013

So tender and shockingly tragic, with some beautiful imagery.

14.06.2013

This poem both holds and captivates attention. It seems to heighten the effects of dementia by presenting what a sufferer appears like, to a close friend or relative. Moving, and captivating.

14.06.2013

quite disturbing, hitting some home truths, yet almost a tragic cry for help!

14.06.2013

I love how the words flow and intertwine with each other. You used such elongated way to express a well-structured melody. Hats' off.

14.06.2013

The poem evokes a powerful sense of sadness, but the language used is beautiful. Not an easy balance to pull off!

14.06.2013

A marvelous and moving poetic piece of the reality of such a disease.

14.06.2013

I found this poem profoundly moving. It was powerful, beautifully crafted and the sense of loss and looking back to happier times, was particularly well expressed by the poet. I wish him well.

14.06.2013

A commendable poem that has been considered within the spectrum of veneration and regret.

14.06.2013

You have captured the sadness of the situation

15.06.2013

Beautiful structure, and some very clever phrases and word choice. I love, 'intimacy turned to absence'. Very current theme, moving for the very fact there's a certain distance and witnessing quality.

15.06.2013

The frustration, loss, grief and agony are all eloquently portrayed.

15.06.2013

Very powerful poem which captures very well the horror of dementia.

15.06.2013

Emotionally-charged and pleasing to read

15.06.2013

Excellent imagery and the portrayal of "bewilderment" conveyed in the partner's life to the writer in the partner's death.

15.06.2013

A sad tale, touched with nostalgia, of a slow descent into oblivion seen through the eyes of a loving carer and companior. In an ageing population we can all empathize with these sentiments.

15.06.2013

A very moving poem with an excellent final stanza. Some lovely language; 'wafer thin smiles and pills', 'roam oblivion', 'while bliss and ignorance kiss in the wilderness'. Great!

15.06.2013

Very vivid. All to true.

15.06.2013

That is a captivating poem and we are all bound to experience it...later. Loved bliss and ignorance kiss in the wilderness, which is so true and so light. From innocence to innocence. Peace.

15.06.2013

A dark poem that brings the writer’s emotions to life very effectively.

15.06.2013

A beautifully written piece on the sometimes tragic effect of time passing by and slowly taking it all. I love it.

15.06.2013

Tough to pick 1st place u so nearly were. Love this.

16.06.2013

My number one of the final twelve. Evocative throughout but the final verse was really emotional. Some of the metaphors were swiftly delivered and incredibly observed. Excellent piece of poetry.

16.06.2013

Great job and made me smile and cry

16.06.2013

brilliant

16.06.2013

Extremely powerful and moving.

16.06.2013

This is very powerful and speaks volumes about the terrible frustration and loss associated with dementia in old age. Moving.

16.06.2013

This poem shows something of the sadness of dementia, but also celebrates and builds a picture of the one who has been 'lost'. It portrays the grief and the anger of the one left behind.

16.06.2013

Good but a bit hard

16.06.2013

Dramatic, brave & moving evocation of what it's like to lose a loved one to dementia. A real sense of a wonderful life together, now lost, and of the world, and you, continuing forlornly without her.

16.06.2013

I having read a lot of dementia poems I sometimes feel that the poet has used the subject for there own artistic gain. But here it is not the case: this is powerful, sincere. More than a poem.

16.06.2013

Sad and thought provoking

16.06.2013

Conflicting emotions, displayed in exquisitely defined images, present a complex poem which warrants many readings to assimilate the love, the pain,the hopelessness and isolation of this situation.

16.06.2013

I work in a dementia care setting. Your poem transcends the increasing confusion for the sufferer and the pain and helplessness of a partner. This will help people understand. Thank you!

16.06.2013

A wonderfully perceptive walk through the world of dementia, powerful imagery, particularly in the first two stanzas.

16.06.2013

A brutally honest portrait of a person watching a partner fade. I love the way the poem uses the senses to conjure up present scenes and old memories, which are strung seamlessly together.

16.06.2013

Touching

16.06.2013

Very touching and well written. Again a topical subject addressed in an unusual way. Very effective poetry.

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