Editor’s note: Here is a sampling of the poetry and prose of a few of the poet-caregivers featured in Frances Kakugawa’s latest book from Watermark Publishing. Special thanks to Frances and Watermark Publishing for allowing us to share these moving works with our readers.
— Setsuko Yoshida
The time clock of my mind
Awakens me at 5:30 a.m.
He is sleeping soundly like a child
On top of the bed,
The lower half in his birthday suit.
Peeking into the bathroom
I react in horror!
BM all over the vinyl floor,
Toilet seat and wastebasket!
Inhaling and exhaling deeply
And telling myself
To live in the present moment,
To forget the self,
To single-mindedly immerse myself
To clean up the mess.
Opening wide the jalousie windows
In the bathroom and bedroom
Allows the brisk cool trade winds to dissipate the odor.
No need to spray Lysol Mountain Air scent,
I put on the disposable vinyl gloves,
Get a bucket of vinegar water and rags,
Go on my hands and knees
And start cleaning one area at a time.
Emptying my mind of any thought
I follow what Nike says
“Just do it!”
— Setsuko Yoshida
Assumptions and expectations
Of what he can and should do
Must be erased from my mind.
An inner voice reminds me,
“Be more sensitive and understanding.”
His trousers, T-shirt
And long-sleeved flannel shirt
Are placed side by side on top of the bed.
He turns them around and around
Examining them closely.
Not knowing the difference
Between front and back
He wears his T-shirt reversed,
And inside out at times.
When buttoning his flannel shirt,
The buttons are not in alignment
With the buttonholes.
While cooking breakfast,
I look towards the hallway.
He has walked out of the bedroom
Through the hallway to the dining room.
He is standing beside the chair
Wearing his shirt and boxer shorts only,
Thinking he is properly dressed
To sit at the table to eat his meal.
He looks like a little boy.
His innocence is so revealing
It warms my heart.
I smile, and tell him
What he has forgotten to wear.
He looks at my face and chuckles
As a glimmer of awareness dawns.
Together, we put on his khaki trousers
Embraced in the centerless circle
Of Boundless Life.
— Linda Nagata
I was full of resentment.
Life was anchored in resentments.
Resentments ate away at me
Fueling my unhappiness and rage.
Why was I expected to “take care of” everything?
Didn’t others see they could help?
Why did others ask what they could do to help, and not follow through?
My resentments built, one incident after another.
I felt entitled to hold these resentments
Take them out and mull them over, and over, and over
See what a good person I am, I do everything
Others set me up and expect me to “take care of”
I set myself up and expect myself to “take care of.”
Later I learned I couldn’t control other people, places or things.
I can only do what I can do for myself
Expecting my family to help allows them to have power over me.
How freeing to have learned this lesson.
— Bob Oyafuso
Dear God, if you must take Fran
please take her sooner rather than later.
Spare her the pains
of an arthritic spine
the fear of lost words
the loneliness of bygone days
the anguish of home away.
I can’t stand
searching for lost items
removing trash from the freezer.
I am tired of
cleaning her poop
giving her medication
keeping her from falling
watching her sleep.
Please take her home.
WHAT I KNOW
— Eugenie Mitchell
Why do you say I am sacrificing
good years of my life
for caring for my mother,
when it shouldn’t be a secret
that I am really living
in a way I have never lived
I know I am holed-up here,
rarely venturing out,
floundering under mountains of Mom’s possessions,
warehousing my profession,
eradicating my retirement,
undermining my health,
foregoing friendships, travel, restaurants, books and movies,
growing fatter, greyer, paler and more wrinkled,
all while doing daily drudgery.
No, this is not sacrifice.
It is just reality.
I am really living
in a way I have never lived before.
I am living love.