Paul Hansford


After The Stroke


This is my husband, my mother said
to the nurse with pride,
only she meant me.
Everyone in the day-room knew
who it was she had been expecting all day
waiting like a birthday child.
We all laughed and put her right,
and she laughed and continued
... and this is her husband
(only she should have said, This is his wife) .
So we all laughed again,
and my mother laughed as much as anybody.

Later, walking round the garden, she showed us the flowers
– roses, geraniums, poppies –
only she called them all lilies.
You can go home, the doctor had told her,
when you remember your name.
Who are you?
– Lily, she said, Lily.
Lilies out there (pointing at the roses) .
Well, at least she knows lilies are flowers.

It isn't as if her mind has gone,
I keep telling myself,
it's only the words won't come.
A week ago she knew her way
through the dictionary blindfold,
amazing at anagrams
scholarly at Scrabble,
and quicker than anyone she knew
to finish the daily crossword.
But now the thoughts that chase round
and round her puzzled brain
find no expression.
How can you say it's 'only' the words?

Having survived the first critical week
she is in no immediate danger.
She might last any time;
she might go any time.
All this, somehow, she realises,
and hasn't even the words to tell us
she knows and is not afraid.
Then after awkward silences
and awkwardly cheerful conversations
it's time to leave.
Will you help me on to the bus? she says
– meaning the bed –
and she laughs again.
After all, it's better than crying.

Submitted: Friday, August 14, 2009
Edited: Monday, June 06, 2011

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  • Jennie Radley (5/8/2010 7:38:00 AM)

    It's quite a while since I went through Poemhunter and read any of your poems - delighted with 'After the Stroke' - it's both moving and funny - exactly the emotions that affect us all in these situations. It is wonderful that you have clearly roused these two very human reactions in this poem. I hope your mum has recovered from the stroke.
    Thank you for your comments on my poems - unlike you, I'm not a member of a writing group, so have to wait for the muse to visit me to produce! (Report) Reply

  • Crystie Cook (3/24/2010 2:38:00 AM)

    This is the kind of poem which is difficult to simply brush over. Having a parent who has also suffered a stroke, it hits quite a bit closer to home, although the ability to speak coherently was not lost in my parent's case, just volume and the quality of his voice. (Report) Reply

  • Patrick A. Martin (10/17/2009 3:30:00 AM)

    A few months ago I sat with a friend of thirty years and your poem pretty much described that time perfectly. Thank you I think life is about our togethernes as much as it is about anything. Paddy (Report) Reply

  • Patrick A. Martin (10/17/2009 3:26:00 AM)

    Not long ago I spent three hours with my dearest friend of thirty years and today I read this and it is a perfect description of those three hours. Thank you for your poem Paul- (Report) Reply

  • Patrick A. Martin (10/17/2009 3:24:00 AM)

    Not long ago I spent three hours with my dearest friend of thirty years and today I read this and it is a perfect description of those three hours. Thank you for your poem Paul- (Report) Reply

  • Jasmin Whyte (9/22/2009 3:15:00 PM)

    Yes, I like it also. I like the humour running through what could be such a sad story, and your poor Mum trying so hard to remember her name through the flowers in the garden. What a brave lady! (Report) Reply

  • Lady Grace (8/25/2009 3:17:00 AM)

    yes, this is happening paul..this means there is a little damage in her brain..in this situation, she needs complete love and complete care with complete understanding...patience should be there...i like the flow of this entry..i like this... (Report) Reply

  • Sonya Florentino (8/15/2009 7:46:00 PM)

    i agree with Susan whole-heartedly...you really have a fine touch.. and for your mother and for all of us.. i hope we never lose our sense of humour no matter how illogical it may turn out to be... (Report) Reply

  • Susan Jarvis (8/15/2009 3:46:00 AM)

    This expressive and beautifully written piece encapsulates that heart-rending visit many of us will relate to. It whispers softly of love, respect and loss, all with a subtle sensitivity that you do so well, Paul. The closing line sums up the essence of those feelings perfectly. This is an exemplary poem. (Report) Reply

  • Tom Balch (8/14/2009 11:38:00 AM)

    A good piece of narration Paul, sad meets happy, great read, regards Tom (Report) Reply

  • Patti Masterman (8/14/2009 10:31:00 AM)

    I really enjoyed this. It's intriguing how we can come to view our parent as just another human being; independent of our relationship with them. We outgrow the limitations of our family bonds with them, but in other ways we cannever leave that connection behind. Great writing. (Report) Reply

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