I did say to him that I may not remember. Told him I had trouble with words these days – too many of them have gone from my head….”
by caroline m. davies
The Ash on an Old Man’s sleeve is all the ash the burnt… was it roses? It’s no good I can’t remember poetry these days, not even Eliot. I used to know the whole of the Waste Land by heart – no mean feat.
It’s coming back to me…
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended
I don’t recognise the face that stares back at me from the mirror in the mornings when I’m shaving. I know it’s me because I can feel the rasp of the shaver but it’s an old man’s face and not mine at all.
Come to think of it I can’t remember the last time I shaved. Was it yesterday? Did I shave this morning? It is morning because they have delivered the newspaper. Had to rush to get it before the dog got there first. Haven’t seen him about the place for a long time. Suppose I’d better put some food down for him. Cup of tea first.
That’s better. Nothing like a strong cuppa. Builders’ tea, my father used to call it. He lived to be ninety. I’ll get there in two years time – hope to do another decade after that and get my telegram. Not that it means much these days.
They’ve hidden the crossword again. I wish they would leave the paper alone. All I can find is this subdoko thing. No clues just numbers. What’s the point of that?
Words – that’s what’s important. Not numbers, they are for the accountants, number crunchers, bean counters. See I can remember things. Just takes a bit of effort.
What’s that woman staring at? She’s here everyday. Always sitting in the same chair, wearing the same drab clothes. She has bald pink knees.
There was somebody new here yesterday or it may have been the day before. I recognised him as he came into the lounge.
“What are you here?” I must have shouted for all the ladies lifted their heads from their bingo and said ssh.
Trouble is that I couldn’t remember his name. Still can’t though he told me again yesterday. Said we’d been on board ship together. Ship-mates, was what he called it. I did say to him that I may not remember. Told him I had trouble with words these days – too many of them have gone from my head.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
It won’t be my voice. I know I ought to rage against the dying of the light but I am really quite comfortable here. They look after me well, I must say.
A young woman comes to visit in the afternoons, just before tea-time. She says she’s my daughter but that can’t be right. My daughter is still a little girl. I know they grow up fast but they don’t age that fast. That just happens to stupid old fools like myself.
She does know a lot about me. I like it when she visits even though she wants to pass herself off as my daughter. She has been quite helpful in reminding me of things that I’ve done. She bought two poetry books with her yesterday or it may have been last week. They were those slim Faber and Faber paperbacks with dark green spines. She said I wrote them. They did have my name on the cover so I took them but what I read inside was drivel, doggerel – not poetry at all.
I think I must have shouted at her because she doesn’t come to visit any more. And she did help me to remember.
It is important, the re-enactment of all things that you have done. Otherwise, what is the point in going on living if you can’t remember.
I wonder if he will come again today, my friend, my old ship-mate.
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn.
(illustration: troy dockins)
Caroline M. Davies is Welsh although she lives in England. She writes poetry and short fiction and is a member of Alex Keegan’s Bootcamp She is not working on a novel. More from Caroline can be found in the Vault of Smoke.