Old Teacher


                        for R.L.

Her envelope arrives by postal miracle,
addressed in Alzheimer hieroglyphs.
Inside the card are five scrawled lines
of nonsense, the ink smudged by her skin,
sent from the prison of her disease.
I can’t begin to say what they mean.
Yet her signature at the end is letter-perfect,
unchanged as basic rules of grammar,
small victory won over her runaway brain.

I abandon my keyboard, take up a pen and paper,
negotiate a truce between my hand and the page.
I don’t mean to condescend.
I print for her with care, as if a child again.


Play Notes: R.L. was one of my elementary school teachers who nurtured my early writing instincts. An itty-bitty woman with a soft raspy voice, she could nevertheless command a class's attention. I adored her. We stayed in touch over the years until she was afflicted, much too young, by Alzheimer's. It eventually claimed her life. This poem is about the last communication we shared.


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