Pectoriloquy |

Je Me Souviens FREE TO VIEW

Michelle M. Tokarczyk, PhD
Author and Funding Information

Editor’s Note: The poet is a professor of English at Goucher College. Her mother has Alzheimer’s. She writes: “I was fascinated by the details of her long life, details that are now almost lost to her.”

Editor’s note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy: Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.

—Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2010;138(5):1273. doi:10.1378/chest.09-2838
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In Hudson Falls you were five years old
in an age without antibiotics
your lungs got so stuffed they almost stopped.
The doctors said you’d never make it.
Your family said you’d never marry.
You left for Jacksonville, then New York
tracking down clerical jobs, living in furnished rooms.
Until you met Mike, married, had two children.
The first, doctors said was too small,
but the incubator heated her to five pounds.
The second the doctors said would bleed away,
but she was saved by bedrest and DES.
You bought a house and painted till
the cold chapped your legs.
You vacationed at a Jersey pond
Mike and your older daughter slipped
deep in a sand hole, went down three times,
stumbled onto shore.
Your daughters married, one in a backyard
another in a ballroom with flaming desserts.
Mike battled diabetes until one night
fluid filled his lungs. You knew he had survived
whooping cough, World War II, muggings.
You knew he could fight. And he did.
But it was not enough.
Your grandchildren cried while “Taps” played.
You and your daughters huddled in memories.
You watched your grandchildren, and they grew
strong enough to move you into their mother’s house,
where you collected newspapers, yogurt containers;
put suitcases in the bathtub. We could not understand.
Until one midnight, broken hip barely healed,
you screamed at your daughter’s door, trembled
telling of burglers who stole your teeth.
The doctor prescribed tranquilizers, diagnosed Alzheimers.
You touch your daughter’s tablecloth like a wall
in the lightless night. Talk of the hospital stay
almost a century ago when you sang
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”
We watch each barely shaped memory fade.




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