Diagnosis: Alzheimer’s

Forgetfulness means to be full
of forgetting
like a glass forgetting
to hold the wine.

First a name, then a date
and finally a world slips
under water,
like a Titanic drowning

slow and ponderous,
into the frigid sea.
And my words and ideas,
like submerged icebergs

slowly sinking, piercing
the surface
deeper and deeper down,
passing memory.

I know I’ve sunk too far
when not even the night,
a tottering lifeboat,
rocks me back to sleep.

And I wake in the morning
not knowing
whether I’ve filled or emptied
my own body,

without ceasing to be.


Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios has been a professor of music for more than thirty years. She chaired the vocal and music department at American University in Washington DC, and she serves as the artistic director of the Redwoods Opera Workshop in Mendocino, California, and the Crittenden Opera Workshop in Washington DC and Boston. As an educator, she has conducted workshops in opera and vocal production at many institutions across the country and was the president of the National Opera Association. As a performer, she has sung solo recitals all over the world.




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