It's a thin, unpretentious little book of poems and woodcuts
done by two old friends, both of whose fathers died of Alzheimer's disease. It's
purpose is merely (merely?!) to pay tribute to two fathers and to share their
bitter and eminently human experience with the rest of us. The result is not only
an affirmation of our shared humanity but an eloquent expression of the determination
not to go silently into that good night. What seems most admirable about the whole
exercise is that, though there's nothing we can do, there is something we can
the introduction to the book the authors state: "Discussing our fathers after
their deaths, we were struck by the similarity of our experiences. There was the
same mixture of love and pain as we watched our fathers' intellectual powers desert
them, the same horror as their familiar identities disappeared.
deals with mourning in her own way. We both needed to revisit the experience of
loss over and over, examining it, shaping and reshaping it, only letting go when
we could turn it into art and poetry."
What drives this particular art and poetry so deeply home is the fact that, though
we don't all have Alzheimer's, we do all have fathers, and Milman's and Sullivan's
views of theirs lead us inevitably to dredge up our own carefully-laid-away paternal
recollections , shames and joys. Suddenly we realize that the authors have succeeded
in taking us by surprise, transforming their own grief into a poignant asthetic
experience which we can share. Homespun and familiar though their raw materials
may have been, heartbreak and hardship, bedpans and restraining webs, Milman and
Sullivan have lovingly rendered them down into something sublime: Art.
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the slack stomached lion in the zoo
his meager cage,
my father after his latest heart attack
is changed --
no longer a tyrant
he now makes tea
carries the dishes
to the kitchen...
I find I cannot accept this blurred vision
of a man whose imperious ways
once infuriated me.
Now like the lion
he makes me weep for his jungle
his proud marauding on the hot savanna
king in a household of women
we brought him the kill
he was first satisfied and always
had the final
Now he waits his turn to talk.
I must pour my years of rage
into a cup and drink the bitter brew.
bastard's dead and a cautious ghost
haunts the ancient frame.
is quite put out.
How can I deal with a mild father
now that the time
for anger is over?
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