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Beset by Dementia, My Father Travels Through Time

Today’s poem is “Beset by Dementia, My Father Travels Through Time” by Mike Bove. His first book of poems, Big Little City, was published by Moon Pie Press in 2018. He lives with his family in Portland, Maine and teaches in the English Department at Southern Maine Community College.

He writes, “During the year before he died, my dad’s dementia made conversation difficult. I wrote this poem after one of our visits by piecing together bits of stories he’d told me, memories I had, and other things he always mentioned here and there. Most of it’s true, a few things I invented; it’s as close as I could get to what it’s like in those days. It was hard to watch him struggle, but I wasn't often sad because despite everything, he was always happy to see me. Every visit. No matter what.”

Beset by Dementia, My Father Travels Through Time 
by Mike Bove

I don’t know. 
It’s not a loosening, no slack
in the mechanics. It’s constriction, or what,
a tightening against a gauzy fog. It’s 1952
in the Nevada desert. The mushroom cloud 
plumes and the photographer snaps my picture 
in uniform standing to one grim side. 
But do you remember the house on Bradley Street
and Grandmother’s small Italian prayers? 
I’d like to go back to the beach house before
we sell it in ’73. The storms that spring brought
sand dollar gems and sea glass. All the best
colors. The blues are the best. Some of my best 
friends were dogs. One died alone on the backroad, 
but can I see her, please? I want to see her, just want
to pet her. And where is the car now, and what
have you done with the car since the divorce?
Two wives and all the children. And you are one 
of them, Michael. Were you there before you were 
born? Did you see me save my patients 
from cancer? I brought you into the mountain 
to see the tourmaline mine. Have we already been?
We’re eating sandwiches in tree shade 
after you hurt your foot, and you found 
that perfect crystal. What a find. 
That’s the kind of blue I like. Like glass, that blue. 
And your foot must be fine since you made it 
to your graduation, your wedding, your life 
and your house and your children and baseball. 
I see paper moving across out in front 
and it’s so heavy I can’t lift it away. 
And I cry now. So many more tears 
next year when I retired. It was 1998 and 2006.
But you’re still with me. You still came. And you
always know what to say and I can’t. And you 
always find the best colors, 
and I’m so happy.

Poem copyright ©2019 Mike Bove.