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Saturday, November 06, 2010

End of Life: a villanelle

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My mom passed away in 1997. She was a pastor's wife, servant of God, mom of eight, church pianist, director of the church music program, Bible teacher, and a counselor to many. Because of living in and for the church, her life was a performance. She felt she had to be perfect, set a spotless example of behavior and attitude, and never cause anyone to "stumble". (I'm sure my dad and the congregation thought so too.) Because of this I believe that she was not free, though I think she was fulfilled and truly a very happy person with a vivacious personality. Picture her in high school on stage as Jo in Little Women getting the letter in the mail when her book was published, raising the letter in triumph, glee, and a little bit of feminine tomboy Wheee! She remained that jubilant girl her entire life, almost.

After my dad died in 1995, and Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I wrote this poem. As her mind and life slipped away, I hoped and dreamed of an opening into freedom for her, maybe in another dimension, perhaps after death. I wondered what her life would be like if she was free to fail, or to do anything she wanted?

The form of this poem is a villanelle, which starts with a tercet (a three-line stanza), the first and third lines of which establish the refrain. As these lines are repeated, their tone, meaning and intensity build through the poem. I chose this form with its fairly strict pentameter and rhyme, and its refrain (like a hymn) for this woman who had dedicated her life to God and his laws and then at the end of life, lapsed into the tormented repetitions of one who has lost her memory and mental footing. There are links below the poem to find out more about the interesting poetic form called villanelle, including some famous poems of this form.


End of Life
Villanelle to my mother, who has submitted
to the forms of others her whole life

After the applause evaporates to nothing,
years from now when dust protects the stage,
you will take a bow, your roses trailing

crooked stems, those old sonatas failing,
yet your mind will muster and engage.
After the applause evaporates to nothing,

over seats prodigiously enchanting,
frail, with bones diminished due to age,
you will take a bow, your roses trailing

thorny courses down your arms and nailing
telegrams upon your palms with rage.
After the applause evaporates, to nothing

will your face upturn, to no forbidding
voice assent, too near, the door of the cage.
You will take a bow, your roses trailing

bird-size heads, their life no longer jailing
them within their small equipage.
After the applause evaporates to nothing
you will take a bow, your roses trailing.

~ Ruth M., 1995




Listen to a podcast of this poem here.

To see how the structure of the villanelle works, go here. To read four beautiful and well known examples of villanelles by Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath and Edward Arlington Robinson, go here. To hear Dylan Thomas recite "Do not go gentle into that good night" in his lush, melodic voice, go here.

If you write poetry, but you haven't tried writing a villanelle, it can be a gratifying challenge!
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64 comments:

Gwei Mui said...

Ruth I have no word to express what this piece has done to me other than to say it left me in tears.

Elisabeth said...

Your mum reminds me of my maternal grandmother, Ruth. I've blogged before about her. She was ruled by her religious scruples. A good woman she nevertheless felt persecuted I suspect by the demands that she lead a good life.

Thanks for a beautiful description of your mother's silent struggle, Ruth. It's very moving.

Bella Rum said...

Ruth,
This is so beautiful and moving. I loved your reading of it.

Dave King said...

Echoes of my own parents from the story of yours. Lovely villanelle. So difficult to do - I find. Triumphantly done.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

This is a stunning and moving poem and post, Ruth. So perfect that it is almost difficult to comment in any meaningful way. Every reading of the poem unveils new meanings, connections, layers and nuances. Your reflection on the tension between form and freedom in the writing of poems, as perhaps a condensation of the tug between the form and freedom in our lives and, so touchingly specifically your mom’s life, is stirring.

I cannot help but try to put myself into your state of mind and heart when you wrote this, shortly after your father’s death and on learning of the coming painful demise of your mother’s mind and life. To see and feel how you managed to hew such beauty from those rough, rough stones is to truly know what for me may be the highest calling of art: to find-create beauty out of pain and anguish.

I also get the impression that, 15 years later, you are still writing this poem, making new connections with this villanelle, letting the poem you created write itself into you in new ways. More than the end of a life, it now seems like it marks the beginning of a journey to follow the path hauntingly and enticingly left by those trailing roses, perhaps, ultimately, to find sources of new and never to be silenced or evaporated applause inside you and your grateful readers.

As with your other poems of late, I am very glad you have recorded yourself reciting it. Hearing you adds the key dimension, the Ruth dimension, that deepens its impact. So much of today, I know, will find me hearing you intone those words “After the applause evaporates to nothing …”.

Bonnie said...

I feel so touched ... deeply moved, in fact, by this victory song for your mother - gifting her with the freedom and expansive expression she could not allow herself in her life.

I so relate to the phrase: 'to no forbidding voice assent', having assented to forbidding religious voices myself in my young years.

The stage you create for her and her 'bow with roses trailing' seems like a glorious victory conferred on her by your loving and knowing heart.

George said...

Beautiful and perfectly rendered, Ruth! It seems that your mother continues to have a great presence in your life. This poem is a treasure to all of us who read your writings, but it will be especially important to your children and their families over the years.

cathyswatercolors said...

Ruth this poem made me tear up.Funny thing I had a dream last night of my mother. Mom dreams are rare and i cherish them. I can feel her warm presence.
When you speak of your mom's selfless life devoted to children and church it makes me wonder if my mom felt that way. Maybe women of this generation didn't think in these terms,about freedom that is?

We are so lucky to be free. I wonder how our children feel about this? Do they understand?
The older I get the more freedom i need. Is it an age thing or a generational thing or is it our temperament?
Peace and freedom my friend
xoxo cathy( sigh,beautiful poem)

The Solitary Walker said...

I find this very accomplished, and quite moving, Ruth. My own mother died on 3rd November, 2004 - exactly 6 years ago. She had progressive Alzheimer's for 5 years before her death. My father - a strict Methodist and often intimidating figure - looked after her for 4 of thoses 5 years, until it became impossible for him to cope. Both of them were well into their 80s.

The Solitary Walker said...

PS You have laid down a challenge with the villanelle. I might have a go..!

Susan said...

Beautiful, Ruth. Our mothers were much the same. You caught it perfectly.

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, I find your comment extremely touching today, just after reading about the progress of your own performance, which has to be the most personal and intense project of your acting career. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Elisabeth. I suspect there are many of our parents' and grandparents' generation who were plagued by these unrealistic standards and scruples. My mom also sometimes fell into the role of victim, which is where the clues came from to me that she was not as free as she might wish. I appreciate your kind visit.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Bella.

Ruth said...

Dave, thank you so much. I am finding so many like us out here in the blog world who have similar stories. It's heartening to share from them.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, thank you for your close reading of this poem and post, it means so very much to me. You know from previous posts how my mother's story is creating new rooms of discovery. I especially appreciate your perception of that new life here, rekindled in this 15-year-old poem, because it struck me when I posted it this morning that "End of Life" was only part of the story. Indeed, one life ends, and a new one is born, in the person herself (at least in my dreams for her), and in me, her daughter and "biographer". As I write that, it hits me that I am creating a biography of my mom, but just as all of us seem to do with our parents, the story is being written on my own skin and soul. How much is discovering what is already there . . . and how much is creating it fresh? Maybe we can't know what golden threads are already sparkling in the air, or are created when our flint meets another's steel?

Ruth said...

Bonnie, the word "victory" resonates with me. Thank you. When someone dies, especially our parents, I think, all the unfinished business rises to the surface. All our complaints, regrets, failings, along with the wonderful memories. Since Mom is alive in me, maybe the victory I feel now, processing my past, really is her victory too. Thank you for offering that word-window.

Ruth said...

Dear George, thank you abundantly for "perfectly rendered". Do you want to know something odd? It wasn't until Farm Day this year, when my sister showed me the printed program from my mom's funeral she'd found somewhere in an old box, that I remembered that this poem was chosen by my family to be printed there, alongside the words from the hymn my mother wrote called "A Christian Home" set to the tune of Sibelius' Finlandia. So your hunch about the family keeping this as part of our mom-grandma-great-grandma's story was a good one.

Expat From Hell said...

Haunting. "Your roses trailing" will stick with me for a long time. You have the ability to evoke emotions in others with those words. I am completely in awe of this work. Such an inspiration....EFH

Ruth said...

Cathy, you raise a good and important point. It does seem that our generation has become much more self reflective (indulgent?) than our parents' generation. Maybe it's both good and not, I don't know. I'm so introspective, I can't imagine life any other way. I do know that Mom was ever beating herself up for being imperfect, for disappointing someone.

Thank you, dear friend, for how you connect here.

Ruth said...

Dear Robert, the similarities in our stories is remarkable. I believe I know something of the toll that must have taken on your father, because my dad had several years caring for Mom after her memory began to fade. We urged him to take her in to be examined and potentially diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but he never wanted to. I believe the caregiving took its toll and led to his demise of lung cancer (he never smoked). From the day he was diagnosed with cancer until his death was just six weeks. He was 78. On this six year anniversary of your mom's passing, I hope you are able to pull up wonderful memories with her, before she was "gone" in her mind. As someone called it in a book, Alzheimer's really is A Long Good-bye.

Do give a villanelle a try. With your skills and leanings with form and rhyme (not always, but sometimes, you use form), I think you will enjoy it. I like the "confinement" of it, if you know what I mean.

Ruth said...

Hi, Susan, thanks so much. I'm gratified that this piece resonates with what you feel about your mom too.

Ruth said...

Kent, your praise of this poem goes right to my heart and fills me up, because if something I write can connect with your heart, there is no better achievement of creative work. Thank you so much for such kind words.

Dan Gurney said...

A most lovely and deeply moving poem. I want to echo what Lorenzo said in appreciating the podcast of your poem. Hearing your voice with the inflections and pauses adds so much dimension and meaning to the poem. It's worth the extra (considerable) effort.

To craft such delicate beauty from these materials is, well, inspiring.

Cusp said...

A beautiful piece of work, Ruth. My dear father and mother-in-law both suffered Alzheimer's and, before I became too unwell to continue working, I faciltated a great many arts projects with people with Alzheimer's...so I'm kind of steeped in it.

I love (?)/ appreciate the way the form of the poem echoes the toing and froing of memories and the process of decline as the condition progresses. It is never a linear journey. It's interesting too how the poem not only seems to celebrate the life your mother lived whilst she was well but recognises how she still resonated with that aspect of her life force once she was ill.

Relatives/ friends of people with Alzheimer's used to say to me that their mother/father etc had 'gone'. I never thought this was true really. Watching my father and mother-in-law I began to see that something of that individual was always there. I used to say 'the essence remains' and I truly believe that to be so.

Thank you for sharing yours and your mother's story and such a considered and lovely piece of work.

Love coming here (*)

Cusp said...

You might also be interested to know about the work of John Killick who I worked with. He is a poet who specialises in working with people with Alzheimer's and has published some remarkable poems

http://www.dementiapositive.co.uk/pp001.shtml

Ruth said...

Dan, I am so pleased you are moved by this poem. My mother is here, and I hope you feel her. Thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast, and for saying it's worth my time. It really is a quick process and something I've enjoyed, with Garage Band on my Mac. After just witnessing your giant bay tree, I feel I've been in the presence of magnificence. It's good to share these things with you today.

Ruth said...

Cusp, coming out of your experience first hand with loved ones who had Alzheimer's, your affirmation of what is in this post means a great deal to me.

You're right, and I have said Mom was already "gone". But there were days she would return and engage in ways that took us right back to the way things were. But there came a point where I felt I was looking into a chasm when I looked into her eyes. I wondered every time what consciousness was there, because she would stare back at me without turning her gaze away.

What strikes me about that link you shared where John Killick works with Kate Allan is how they say those with dementia are not on linear time, but they are in a point in time. That sounds like living in the moment, something I'm learning to do, and also to write with that in mind. Thank you for that sparkling point, and your wonderfully generous comments.

Margaret Bednar said...

Sigh. I look at my children and wonder at times how they will look back upon John and myself. Will they see the faults we try so hard to hide, will they understand what drove us? As I age, I think I understand my parents a bit more, would like to reach out to them more. But it isnt easy to ask personal questions and soon it will be too late. I remember sitting in the nursing home with my 90+ year old grandmother and hating the smell of the place and being bored. Isn't that terrible. She was born around 1895 and what would I give to sit at her feet today and really ask about her life. But do you know, my mother carries hurt inside of her from her childhood. .. My Grandmother was very Victorian. Both good, sweet women. But, yet both have left "scars" so to speak on their children. Wounds that have mostly healed with maturity, but still are faintly there. I think every mother wants to be that perfect, loving image. It is hard to live up to. And alzheimers steals any chance to connect and share. I will reread this poem as poetry is hard for me to follow. I understand it usually only after reading it very slowly and repeatedly. Will teases me all the time about that. But it certainly got me reflecting, even if I missed the whole point of the poem. LOL. I love the reference to roses trailing... Such an image!

Arti said...

Ruth, this is just too poignant... I have two very elderly parents. I just don't have words to describe my apprehension about the future (your post on Fear resonated in me). The form of your poetry sings while the words strike deep chords. Whatever I feel inside, I just let them pour out, formless and amateur. But your writings demonstrate real talent and inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Ruth said...

Margaret, what a good reflection from you. Oh it always takes me at least two readings to "get" a poem, and often many, many more . . . usually many more. I read your Will's poem this morning four times, to get the scene and meaning.

No, I don't think it's terrible that as a young person you hated the smell of your grandmother's nursing home and were bored. Even as a thirty-something I felt that way at my mom's place. But love makes us go anyway, and sit through the end of life with the one we love. I think if we're not honest about our feelings, it does us no good, or anyone else either. The same is true with our kids, I think. I truly feel that honestly showing our kids our responses to them and to life, and modeling our own struggles is not only important, I think it's essential to show them that feelings are friends, and we are real people. Otherwise I'm afraid they will learn to deny their feelings and live frustrated and unfulfilled lives. And this, my friend, is the point of this poem.

Thank you for spending this time here with me today.

Ruth said...

Arti, my friend. Letting your feelings pour in your writing is such a gift, to you and to us. I had that sudden lift in my heart when I got to the last lines of your poem about the autumn walk, with Chopin. In fact I have the music on my gmail status bar now.

I'm sorry you now have the weight, and the wait, at the end of your parents' lives, the inevitable reversal of roles most of us face. May this time find you turning to the beauty you find in books, nature, music, architecture, art, and friends, and finding solace.

Cusp said...

I'm so glad you liked the link Ruth. John and Kate have doen some amazing work. It really is worth getting hold of their books to share in the work they have created with people with Alzheimer's. I loved that work too and really miss it.
One of the best books I ever read about dementia is 'Dementia Reconsidered: The Person Comes First' by the late Prof Tom Kitwood. He was one of the pioneers of the person-centred approach.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dementia-Reconsidered-Person-Rethinking-Ageing/dp/0335198554

As you say, people with alzheimers are living in the moment. It must be very frightening ot have your reality change so often and so subtley. On teh other hand, learing to live in the moment and to just 'be' is something we can learn from their experiences. Certainly the time I spent just being with so many people with Alzheimer's changed my outlook on life and served as a valuable lesson when I became to ill to always be doing.

Oh said...

Surely your mother has heard your poem, has felt it where she is and has wept tears of joy for the beauty and love of it and for her daughter who would write this of her. What finer finer piece could there be to laud her and love her?

Oh said...

Ruth, egads, I used the word "laud" in my previous comment and that's not "le mot juste" as the French would say. My gaffe. I know your poem was far more intricately built and fine and personal than a piece that "lauds."
Anyway, know that I "sense" your villanelle better than I can explain...

dutchbaby said...

It seems a cruel blow that your mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the same year your father died. I can see why you would be left to wonder, what if she was free to fail?

How great that you have learned to live the life that is meant for you and that you know you are free to fail, if you so choose.

ds said...

So deeply moving is this, I don't know how to comment. I love the "dance" of the villanelle--the tension between substance and structure that is the heart of the form (at least, in my very limited guessing of it), the tension between essence and stricture that seems to have been your mother's adult life. Yes, you chose the perfect way to express that (you know this), and the imagery: trailing roses, the stage, a cage. How powerful the simple is in your hands. But not simplistic, never simplistic. I ache for your mother inside her "cage," for your dad who knew but did not want to know, for you and your siblings who faced such terrible challenges with...grace. There is true grace in this poem Ruth, perhaps it frees you a little bit? The way breathing into the tight spots in yoga creates space/release??
I don't know. Thank you for this.

Namaste.

Deborah said...

I had never heard of this poetic form. What you have written is beautiful and powerful -you honour a woman who you see as a distinct person, not just your mother.
You are a fine poet, Ruth, as well as a superb writer. I don't know how to write poetry, and am not knowledgeable enough to analyze what it is that makes this so good, but I do know that it is.

This particularly struck me, and I read it over and over, trying to understand: you will take a bow, your roses trailing
thorny courses down your arms and nailing
telegrams upon your palms with rage.


Your use of language and metaphor is, quite simply, gorgeous.

rauf said...

Ruth, your mom had seen better days, spent her childhood and younger days in great comfort. Her sacrifice of her desires was her choice and she was rewarded in her lifetime itself with a lovely family. Besides, most of her desires were fulfilled in the Church activities. Only sad thing was her compositions were not recorded for posterity. But she sang and played them, Congregation enjoyed her compositions, greatest reward for her creative efforts.

all of you can contribute in writing a book about your mom and dad's activities and their efforts to keep the Church members under one umbrella.

Claudia said...

Wow! The villanelle is most definitely in, from what I've seen in my favourite blogs lately! And most beautiful, yours is, Ruth!

There comes a time, difficult and painful but also very loving and tender, when our parents inspire us almost as much as our children.

Your Mother must have been someone very special. Mine is as well. I lost my maternal grandmother to Alzheimer two years ago. She was an intelligent woman with a strong and charming personality. I hope my Mom doesn't have the same, terribly undignified end.

Ruth said...

Cusp, it's pretty incredible to see this kind of work, knowing that not only are scientists researching dementia to stop its cruel progression in a person's brain, but also to learn how to respond and treat those who already have it in such powerfully sensitive ways. It also says a lot about you that you loved your work, and I think it says you must have had hope. That is what plagued me so heavily with Mom, that it was hopeless, she was hopeless, we were hopeless. Thank you very much for sharing the links here so I and others can follow them.

If you come back and read this, please tell me if you have a blog now. I have not been successful finding it, if so.

Ruth said...

Oh but Oh, why not le mot juste? Your words laud and love are surrounded by expressions of such beautiful feeling and honor, that I feel there are no more perfect words to say what can't really be said. Words are just fingers pointing at the moon anyway. But if you had been silent in this space, and left it blank like a white journal page, there would be no Oh-finger, and yours is one that I will always, always appreciate for its way of seeing the moon.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I feel the same as you, that it was a cruel blow. The Alzheimer's was coming on for years before she was diagnosed, but Dad didn't really know how to face the prospect of getting what was wrong with her named like that. But yes, one of the strange and pointless exercises I found myself doing over the years was asking What if one or the other of my parents passed away first, would it make a difference in their life? I guess that is not an unusual thing to do as a child.

Ruth said...

DS. Thank you for doing what you do when you sense the importance of something I write for me, for embracing me, and it. And I mean embracing it with listening ears and observant eyes, but mostly with an open and eager heart that wants to understand. But I don't only find that in you here, it is there wherever you are.

Yes, I think there was, and is, some kind of freedom that opened from this poem. I wrote it as an assignment for Diane's class. She taught us a few forms, and then she gave us freedom to try them, or not. She and I talk often about how form suits me and my writing for some reason. It's like the tension you address in your comment opens the creative stage in me as inspiration. I like having walls and limits that require whittling down the whole universe of possible words to the ones that fit the meter and rhyme. It's a delightful exercise for me. I guess this is a little ironic, given the theme of my mother's life here. But you know? I think we all need just the right mix of open space, and confinement, something very personal for each of us. The trick? To find that elusive mix that inspires but does not quell.

Ruth said...

Oh, and DS, very happily, this poem expressed something for some of my siblings too, in ways they didn't know how, and it has come to represent something special in that way, in our family.

Ruth said...

Deborah, such praise from you is very special, for you are a tremendous writer. Thank you.

I did not notice until just this week, sometime after posting this, that I had used the word rage, which is such a powerful force in Dylan Thomas's "Do not go gentle into that good night". I wonder if I had a subconscious desire to ride his villanelle coattails.

Cusp said...

Hi Ruth. Yes I do have a blog:

wwww.lombredemonombre.blogspot.com

However, in all honesty I haven't posted very much for quite a while because we've had building work/reno here since March and it has taken my attention away from blogging. In the meantime I am on FB if you are part of that.

Re. hope: I don't think it's that I had hope in any sense that my Father would get better or not get any worse..it was more that I saw him and other people with Alzheimer's as people who were somehow covered, smothered and yet deep within still held that little shining jewel which spoke of their individuality, their gifts, their essential unique humanity and contribution to the world. Having said that, this is a terribly difficult idea to hold onto in the face of such decline. It was easier to maintain with people I worked with who were not relatives...and yet and yet.

My last real memories of time with my father involve helping him to eat a sandwich and sit at a table with other residents of his Nursing Home. In many ways, this man, who had devoted his life to caring for other people, inspiring people to care and appreciate children with disabilities had become a disabled child himself but I could still see my Dad, still feel his hand, his arm, still smell his smell and still know that somewhere deep inside, my lovely caring father was there in front of me. I knew it because I knew him and had faith that no matter what his spirit was stronger than any illness.

João said...

My compliments, Ruth, this is definetly beautiful.
Muito obrigado for sharing so much beauty.

Ruth said...

rauf, your comment reminds me to see Mom as she saw herself and not only as I wish she could have been. I think of how I would have felt, and that is shortsighted.

Did I tell you about the cantata she wrote, and some other more famous chap got it published and made his name big and hers small? He and his choral group performed it at McCormick Place in Chicago. None of us went. I think that episode really hurt her. In fact many of her songs were published but she got little compensation, not that she wanted any.

You know I want to record a "We are the family" version of "A Christian Home" and set it to family photos. That song is sung in almost every "evangelical" church in the U.S. on Mother's Day. The words of it are on her grave stone.

I think you also know, rauf, that everyone was family to my parents. Our house was full not only of our own family, but many from other countries, and wards of the court who had no home. My parents never locked their door, rauf.

Ruth said...

Claudia, yes. It was João's post of William Empson's villanelle that first inspired me to post this. I have thought about it for some time, and this seemed like the right moment to post it.

I know you and your mom are close, and it's hard for you to be away from her. Isn't it an intriguing journey, to discover how our mother, and our daughter (two of them for you) "bookend" us or "sandwich" us or "parenthesize" us? I really like being nestled between my mother (and her mother) and my daughter, and finding the threads that connect us.

I hope you mom will be happy and comfortable all the way through, Claudia. Alzheimer's is hardest on the family. It's hard to say how it feels to be inside it, especially after there seems to be no personality left.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Cusp, I know I visited your blog a while ago. I followed the link you left and it said "Blog not found". I have a FB account, but I rarely, rarely go there . . . only if someone posts something on my wall, or when I post a family photo album.

I meant "hope" just as you describe it in your second paragraph in your latest comment. Not hope that he would come out of it, he or anyone who already has it, but hope that the little shining jewel of who they are is still there, and worthy of our attention and honor.

Ah, how poignant it is to read about your dad, and that he was a caring, and caregiving, man. Thank you so much for sharing your real life connections, making this post deepen with life and meaning.

Ruth said...

João, muito obrigada, my friend. And obrigada for inspiring me with your post of Empson's villanelle. I hope you are writing poems . . .

Ginnie said...

I somehow always read things a bit differently, Ruth, when you write about Mom. We had such different experiences with her because of our 11-year difference in age. I would love to sit down and talk about our impressions...one day. It was because of Mom's Alzheimer's that I finally learned to love her again, after years of emotional separation. Maybe then I became free, too...because I sure did sense she was fre. Free at last, even before she passed....

willow said...

Beautiful tribute to your mother, Ruth. I adore the lyrical quality of a villanelle. They're not as easy to write as one might think. Well done.

Babs-beetle said...

I can't say too much on poetry, but I know if it's beautiful and truly heartfelt.

One day they'll get to grips with Alzheimer and learn to stop it in it's tracks. Until then we have to say goodbye, far too soon, to people we love.

Oliag said...

Beautiful...your voice, your words, the form, the images of the stage and the cage...I can say no more other than what commenters have already said better than I could...

Vagabonde said...

It is said that villanelles can be set to music. I can see your End of Life villanelle being set to a Chopin slow waltz and being played in front of a beautiful sunset. This is a stunning and moving piece of writing.

Loring Wirbel said...

I am seeing death poems bubble up everywhere, is it November that brings it to the surface? Anyway, thanks so much for bringing this to your blog, wonderful villanelle.

Pat said...

I was so moved by your poem. It's hard enough to lose a parent; but I can't imagine losing one to Alzheimer's - slowly a piece at a time.

Terresa said...

Beautiful tribute to your mother, I loved "your roses trailing." What heart went into writing this, dear Ruth.

PS: I love villanelles, they are a delight to write as much as read, and I agree, a gratifying challenge!

Susan said...

I can sense in your poem that you felt a certain rage yourself for your mother's suppression of her pre-Baptist life...a rage that she apparently did not feel, or at least she concealed it from her loved ones very well if she did have those kinds of feelings.

It is sad to think of the life she might have led if she had pursued a life on the stage...but then, there wouldn't have been you and your sisters and your brothers. And I don't think she would have sacrificed the joy of her family for the stage lights. It's a cold light up there.

Brava, my friend, for such a beautiful poem. And the picture is stunning.

Jeanie said...

I've never heard of a villanelle -- this is a simply lovely one to serve as an introduction.

What a beautiful tribute to a woman who no doubt left behind a great gift to her children. It's interesting -- the suppression. I think of that often. But to keep your joy of life with that awful sense of perfection hanging over you -- that's wonderful. What an example! Thank you for sharing something so beautiful and deeply personal.

deb said...

Ruth,
I can't begin to express how in awe I am . Of this space you create here. This is more than a blog... I hold off coming because I know I will be swept into something that honours and teaches and grips and intrigues.

And that's a good thing.

You honour by sharing such a rich and creative family with grace and elegance and authentic observations. I would buy a large and priceless book containing all of this .

I' m heading out for my jog/run now, but wanted to stop by. I will return and listen to you with eyes closed , and heart and mind open, humbled, enriched as always, and completely rendered speechless no doubt. I am rendered speechless by the comments and your replies for heaven's sakes.

sigh...

emily garnhart said...

i was looking for my friend blog about how to get your ex boyfriend back and i bumpt your blog and it look cool.. :) i will visit here again.