Remembering Dementia 

Listen, woolly afternoon, you’ve 
wound around our fingers once 
too often. I’ve tried to unravel her 
strands of words, but her stories rarely verge 
on solvable, instead mingling 
timelines, places and languages 
in some beautiful 
but useless 


I try to follow one track 
of story, only to discover 
knitting or biscuits – and she never knitted 
though they’d tell her 
it befit her; a trap 
for the elderly she’d 
eagerly evaded. 


Well. When she’s quicker and 
looser I may try 
and ask her, 
but it’s all tangled now, 
she says of her head, 
before her tongue is tied. 

April 7

A woman stands 
at the kitchen window, stares blurrily 
into your small world. You are content 
to be clanging 
music, smoking barbeques, 
recycling bins brimming 
with glass. They are private 
school uniforms, dishes and bedtimes, 
a steaming resentment 
from the balcony. They can’t tell 
you just talked to your mother, whose 
speech was cluttered 
and undecided. You broke in 
and spoke for her, covering up 
the glaring, the scared 
deficiencies. Your mother couldn’t know 
you’d just left 
his place, his mouth 
a ghastly tied up 
red. That he’d stooped 
to say that you were lovely, only 
to state that this was it. That your hands 
had hacked your speech, in the vain 
hope of stopping 
words. Perhaps he’d known 
you’d bruised your skin, that you 
looked for him in each 
passing vehicle. 


And later, tracing the spine 
of the hills, you see the view 
is all over again. As you watch 
you nod obediently, 
like when you’re expected 
to understand. You’re only 
so many people 
deep. But how to wait, 
and watch the water? 


Alice Miller has just completed her MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. She has a History Honours degree (and an overabundance of ideas for what might come next). She lives in Wellington.