Jakob writes - Dementia Cut-Up

in Poetry, Portfolio, Stories

Dementia Cut-Up

Du spürst der Erinnerung nach wie einem eingewachsenen Haar
Abwesend doch beharrlich nestelnd kannst du nicht fassen, was mal war.
Die nachfühlende Inspektion einem Tick oder Triebe gleicht
Fremdkörper und doch deins worüber prüfend nun dein Nagel streicht.
Das Versichern dieser Existenz ist Mittel nur zum Zweck
Für chirurgische Entwurzelung fehlt dir das nötige Besteck.
Wie sehr kann stören was nicht da ist? Du kannst nicht davon lassen
Trittst vor den Spiegel nun, um das Subjekt mit dem Blick zu fassen.
Angesicht zu Angesicht mit dir bleibt aus das Erkennen
Den Anblick deiner Selbst kannst du nicht mehr dein Eigen nennen.
Statist im eignen Film, zur Nebenrolle reduziert
Der Projektor hinter deiner Stirn Bilder noch doch keine Deutung produziert.
Fetzen, Fransen, Silhouetten, tanzende Nachtfalter im Schein
Was muss Licht, was Schatten, was Teil der Vorstellung sein?
Unfähig zu trennen hegst du Groll, der vor sich her dich treibt
Bist minder in der Lage zu benennen was dir bleibt.
In Ungewissheit beschreitest du den schmalen Grat
Grekreuzt verlieren deiner Unternehmen Ströme nun den Namen Tat.
Wie eine Ausstellung durchwanderst du dein Habitat
Dein Hab und Gut reiht sich als Exponat an Exponat
Von dem nichts mehr Reaktionen in dir weckt
Inkongruent sind Bild und Abbild, nichts sich deckt.
Die mangelnde Erkärung macht aus allen Dingen Nieten
Chiffren nur, für die Lesarten sich nicht bieten.
Überhaupt, das Lesen birgt und bringt Verdruss
Des Satzes Anfang schon vergessen gelangst du an den Schluss.
Sprache und Kohäsion der Worte sind noch gegeben
Es missglückt, Einzelheiten in Zusammenhang zu heben.
Des Mediziners klare Diagnose mag routiniert, eindeutig sein
Den Symptomen begegnest du dennoch jeden Tag allein.
Du stellst dich den Dämonen der Amnesie
Unfreiwillig gebiert die Affliktion Poesie:
Auf Irrfahrt driftest du zwischen den Gefilden
Schöpfst neue Worte, ohne dir Reim zu bilden.
Du bist ein Barde der die größten Hits nicht spielt
Bedürftiger, der nicht mehr braucht, was Brauch befiehlt.
Minör auf dem Feld, auf dem die Schlacht bereits getobt
Ein Kommandeur, der jeden Tag schon vor dem Abend lobt.
Auf der Landkarte deines Lebens könnte dein Name auch ein Ozean sein
Als müßiger Flaneur lässt du dich nur auf unbekannte Straßen ein.
Wachträumer, Melancholiker, Faun im Labyrinth
Fließend dein Übergang und Wandel vom Greis zum Kind.
Barbier der du dich selbst nicht mehr rasierst
Welt- und selbstvergessen, bärtig, in den Fernseher stierst
Gibst dich zur Hälfte schon geschlagen, der andere Teil sich bäumt
Am Rande des Bewusstseins Wiedererkennen das Unbekannte säumt.
Einmal bereits hat dies geistige Gebrechen dich gebrochen
Traf die Person, der du die Treue zugesprochen.
Vor deinen Augen gingst du einem anderen Mensch verloren
Dein Name, obgleich von deinen Lippen oft beschworen
Vermochte das Erlöschen nicht zu stunden
Du warst Zeuge, die Erinnerung an dich verschwunden.
Ist es dir jetzt möglich, den eigenen Verlust zu bedauern?
Hast du Erinnerung an Trauer, weißt du bewusst zu trauern?
Warst du einst bitter, bist du es jetzt erst recht?
Vermag die Zeit zu richten, geht es dir im Schlichten schlecht?
Schweigend gibst du unversöhnlich Kunde
Abwärts gerichtet der Winkel dort am Munde
Dir bleibt nur noch der Ausdruck, zu dem dich die Maske zwingt.
Die abschließende Synthese, das kohärente Fazit nicht gelingt.
Deine gepressten Lippen ziehen den letzten Strich.
Du bist nicht mehr bei dir, doch ganz für dich.


short story version

Shorn sheep have trouble recognizing their fellow herd members, so that a newly naked herd needs to re-sort itself. I’m staring incredulously at my own numbskull in the mirror, trying to recognize myself, but I can’t. Once again, my mother’s haircut has gone wrong and come out much too short. I know that inevitably, the pecking order of the school yard will sort me to its bottom.

But strangely, my memory doesn’t serve me these moments of ridicule and humiliation that surely must have followed. As I’ve lost my hair and the ability to recognize myself in the mirror, what stays with me is the feeling that I’ve questioned myself before. There is no consolation in these fragments of myself that come me. I’d have long since come undone, if I were not bound by these remembrances of who am I?

The day was afloat in limbo just before dusk. The light seemed to fall in horizontally, undecided if it should settle into dusk. We had skipped over the lawn in the courtyard, as if we weren’t too old already for playing outside with such wild abandon. Cut grass formed an inviting, soft blanket on top of the short lawn underneath. Drying in the sun, its initially rich and juicy smell had turned into the sweet scent of hay.

I picked a few blades from my neck sticky with sweat, the half-dried grass itching like straw, and I knew my future held more than just showering off and studying Latin vocabulary. I was not like the others. If I hadn’t found myself yet, would I ever? The thought gave me a strange kind of ease. I’d go through life as an imposter then, someone whose stories were not to be trusted simply because they couldn’t possibly be true all at the same time.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” declared the judge in juvenile court and sentenced me to community service for my mere presence during the creation of a graffiti on the wall of the remand prison: “I’m going kaput, are you coming with me?”

As a cemetery gardener, I was amazed at how much attention all the living parts of a final resting place received, while the graves themselves appeared neglected, apart from the thick candles encased in red plastic left behind, stand-ins for regular visits.

A flower shop at the bottom of the hill sold these candles along with arrangements, but only now and then the bereaved actually climbed the hill to the cemetery. Yet I constantly saw seniors circling the hill below. It almost made me dizzy watching them. Men were walking the cancerous dogs their wives had left them, women were walking the dogs they had inherited from their cancerous husbands. All of them wrinkled, creased, lined and on a short leash, dragging folds of flesh, gasping for air like pugs, a wheezing, rattling, and whistling sound, as if the deceased were ordering their dogs to be walked from beyond the grave.

It was a summer of harking. I tended the gravel walkways between the graves with a wooden rake, and the cut lawn with a metal one. I would have preferred to just let it be, allow the mown grass to smoothly cover the ground, spreading its smell of hay in the summer sun.

Through the trees I could make out a sliver of silver, the lake, where my pubescent classmates were hanging out at the shore, smoking weed, while I uncovered the trimmed cemetery lawn. As I raked across, the naked ground shone through the short bristly grass, like scalp through cut hair.

I hated lunchtime, because I was unable to fit myself into the conversation with the other gardeners, talking about inflation, tripe nibbled like ham and cheese sandwiches. Instead I continued working on my own, suffering existential teenage angst, mixed with recollections of watering my grandfathers grave during cemetery visits with my grandmother.

A man appeared in front of me, sudden like a ghost, and touched me on the shoulder.
“You don’t lose your partner to dementia,” he said, “you witness them losing you.”
I peered questioningly at the headstone behind him: “Lord, stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over,” I read.

But here my memory is playing a trick on me, as I recognize these as words from a novel, a writer dictating them to a stonemason, the result of my life lived in books.
Behind me, the other gardeners were stirring, pelting the ground with their cigarette butts, putting them out with their work boots, scratching the ground like dogs. Yet I can’t remember how I was delivered from that moment with the stranger. Did the foreman call me over, did I merely have to pick up the rake again, or did the unknown senior let the young fool pass on his own accord?

What I do remember: the saddest thing about any cemetery were the watering cans for the elderly. They hung from hooks near the fountain, mere cups, watering mugs made from tin, and shaky hands sloshed and splashed their contents on paths and lawn before reaching any grave.

The smell of cut grass. “You witness them losing you.” And for a moment I can’t remember whether I’m leading my tin cup to the fountain or the grave. Only now do I understand his words in the cemetery. Some wetness remains at the bottom of my cup, and I look up, squinting at the headstone, confirming your name, under which the stonemason has carved, and I swear this is true: “I will follow you soon.” But I don’t know who has played a trick on whom with these words.

In front of my eyes, your memory expired, your recognition flickered out, and even though your lips still spelled out my name now and then, already you didn’t know anymore whom or what you had addressed that way, what my name had meant to you.

And I, ever the imposter, became the blank canvas onto which you painted a persona, moment to moment. Stranger or relative from your past, I played along. By then, with a life of practice, I was used to lying. All my lies were only wishes, and all my wishes never came true.

Cut off from me, from the world, from life, I nonetheless made out resentment, as if you knew I never was the person that you took me for. Until the end, I spied the tell-tale signs in your eyes, the corners of your mouth, your lips tightly pressed together into a bitter line –