This poem was published last year in the anthology of a local poetry collective that I'm part of. Hope you all are well in this difficult time. It's been quite a while.
Cosimina reveled in the afterglow
of late-night parties between the wars,
and cozied up to her husband John
at the end of well-worn nights
punctuated by cigarette smoke
and chased down with spurts of poker games.
1941 was a vicious year for her,
the year of refrigerator mother
and a terrifying confusion
that winks at a nascent disease,
the ignominious one
that was often shuffled under carpets
or forever locked away in hospital
where no one could ever find out.
Misfortune split her mind in two,
a miscarriage of baby
A storm began to bellow inside her--
nice fellow John was
to make coffee when she wasn’t well,
who can tell
it’s all pell-mell,
she can hardly spell in her journal
which are by now frantic fits of fire
where roofs have pencil dark dirge demands
over a threatening sky skedaddled,
as the paranoia has met
the giddy and the giggling,
and all the ha ha’s when the neighbor died,
and the boo hoo’s when daughter’s on her period.
“Oh Christ John, what’s happened to me?” she cried,
spied out of the corner of her eye, so sly,
a man walking outside who flim-flammed in such an extraordinary way
and begged to be attacked, so she ran out of the nubby apartment
half-nude and walloped the poor guy ‘til she was sent away to the farm.
Antipsychotics didn’t do much good,
the chasers to early insulin’s shocks,
the visitors in her head were gone
but she was torbid and much befuddled,
so very sleepy and so poor in life and spirit.
Words continued to come to her wrong,
like unexpected guests to whom she would say
“Go on!” when really no one was at home.
The visions never had nice things to say in reply,
the apartment was a cacophony, a pig-sty, no lie,
good surprise the trees outside are all angry
relapsing on themselves, gobbly-wobbly and full of gum spurts.
Red faces in the mask, horrid pershings in black-pocked earth,
worthy of spleen and gustos of wind, laughing fangs all the time.
“But why won’t they leave me alone?” she’d wail
and run to her room,
and leave John alone with his newspaper and cigarette
and black coffee.
and as Cosimina grew old,
her split mind slowed down
and those unexpected guests no longer came around.
Her eyes and ears quit on her so she rested sweetly on her dementia,
John was interred
but it all passed above her
and she spent her final decade in a home,
waiting for dinner above all things,
and when it was quiet and dinner was already consumed,
she’d pipe up with a burp and ask “When is dinner coming ‘round?”.
I think of Cosimina to this very day
and her long years
and her tough years
and her small early pleasures.
How John would
dance the waltz with her
to take her mind off flim-flams and nubby things,
the angry faces in the wall,
and I wonder if I may ever have the courage
to ask in a silent room,
“When is dinner coming ‘round?”
I read this twice. Then I printed it out for my husband to read. I don’t know what to say except to say: COSIMINA fucking blew me away! Gorgeous. Painful. Saddening. Writing that bypassed the criticism of another writer’s inclination and went directly to the heart. In short, the experience was perfectly overwhelming. More so because I’m bipolar and heavily medicated. Thank you!
Great to see you after all this time. I’ve grown old and anxious. And still a stoner since 1962. ;) If you would like to know what I’ve been up to go to Amazon then click on books and enter my full name (Edward Crosby Wells) and see what pops up. I’m working on a full-length: ANNIVERSARY PLAY. It is about a gay couple celebrating their 50th anniversary (which Ron and I did last October).
Anyway, I’m so glad you’re back and to stay, I hope.