“At the Memory Care Center” by Theodora Ziolkowski

Theodora Ziolkowski


The residents don’t want to make Valentines,
but I cut hearts with child-safe scissors.
I was a surgeon, Reid sullenly declares as he colors.
He fights to stay in the lines.
Meanwhile, Edith has spilled the glue
& Nell wants to start her card over.
My lap is piled with hearts
so I hum “Blue Moon”
because a familiar tune calms them
the way bringing home bouquets once did for me.
I’d leave that Target with my cart packed with groceries,
setting the flowers in the passenger seat beside me.
Now the residents are singing louder,
but I am still cruising along some dark road in Alabama,
breathing in the rotting mouths of those flowers,
when the former surgeon puts his hand on my wrist.
Don’t get carried away, he says, taking my scissors.
I lift my foot off the gas.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020


Theodora Ziolkowski: “I began volunteering, and ultimately working part-time, as a lifecare specialist at a memory center in Cypress, Texas. Leading arts activities for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia was revelatory for me as a person as well as a poet. The residents seemed to feel with a depth that was striking; when I would read them a poem or tell them a story, their faces said everything. In turn, they could read my face better than some of my closest friends. This poem is my attempt to encapsulate that realization.” (web)

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