This chapbook of 26 poems traces the author's interactions with her mother, a woman lost in the morass of Alzheimer's disease. In the first poem, "The Loss" (1), the author takes us into her mother's home--a disorganized mess of stained thrift shop clothes folded and refolded into piles. The daughter tricks her mother into moving in with her "for a trial" which becomes permanent.

In the last poem, "At Least This" (26), the poet stoops "to pull the diaper / up around my mother's / waist, my temple / near her breasts." As the daughter leans into this task, the mother caresses her hair, embraces her. This hug, beautifully and simply portrayed, is the poet's fragile reward for all the struggles, mercies and difficult moments examined in the poems between.

These poems are both beautiful and unfailingly honest, addressing with humor and charity the difficulties of caring for a parent with this disease. In one poem, "The Battle" (5), the mother slathers herself with Vaseline. In another poem, "The Bath" (7), the mother lies in the bathtub, her flaccid skin smoothed by water's illusion, her body suddenly as lovely as Bonnard's painting of a woman bathing. "This is the mother I battled / when young: the mother / who beat my defiance; / the one I hit back," the poet writes in "A Late Blessing" (6), and in another poem, "Intellectual Opiate" (10), she speaks of her mother's love for words she no longer understands.

But these poems are more than poignant narratives about a daughter's relationship with a once-difficult, now dependent mother. They address the "seeds of her disease" (11), exposing the flaws of this relationship without dishonor or blame. In these poems, Slatkin's mother appears vibrant and whole, not ravaged by disease. Rarely have the difficulties and possibilities of Alzheimer's disease been presented in poetry with such insight and respect.


Slatkin's poems present the reality of Alzheimer's, its pocks and demons, in precise, just-right imagery. We feel as if we are standing with her beside her mother's bath, as her mother sits on the toilet, as her mother's mind wanders and forgets, as her mother returns love for love. These poems respect the person within the patient; they forgive the sins of the past and find, within diminishment, the possibility of wholeness. They find "the peace of closeness" (26) in every small triumph, any moment of intimacy. This book is recommended for any caregiver, any family member who struggles to love and care for a patient, a parent, or a grandparent with Alzheimer's.


See: Finishing Line Press, P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, Ky. 40324


Finishing Line Press

Place Published

Georgetown, Ky.


Limited Collector's Edition 2005

Page Count