Archives for posts with tag: elderly
Last Chance Melody
by Maryann Hurtt

two days before he gets up
and leaves
after eighty plus earthbound years
my grandpa tells me
Get out my ol’ mouth harp

it sits in a nest
of worn Kodaks
recording a now too-long life

I crank the sick bed
prop pillows
as his at one-time wife
mother of seven kin leans close
then sings old woman
cracked notes
to his wheezy harp tune breaths

a harmony of sorts
dances the air
hymns and tunes played back
in Depression time before
lead and zinc chewed lungs
and booze held sway

listen now
you might find yourself believing
for this little while anyway
in torn and tattered
stick around love

two doors down
Death waits patiently
hums along to a few hymns
knows not to disturb

Originally published in Anti-Heroin Chic.

Photo by

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I went to see my grandpa two days before he died. His breathing was awful after years working in the mines and living a rough life. He wanted to play his harmonica again. I propped up his pillows and he was able to wheeze out a few tunes. I ran back to my grandma’s…they had long ago separated but maintained something still kind. She came back with me and I listened to her sing and him play. This will always be one of my favorite memories and gives me a sense of hope even in hard times.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Now retired after working 30 years as a hospice Registered Nurse, Maryann Hurtt listened to and savored a thousand stories. Her family members were all great storytellers, and she recorded in her sixth-grade diary that when she grew up, she wanted to be a “storyteller (a good one).” She lives in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine, where she hikes, bikes, reads, and writes almost daily. Since retirement and able to travel, she has had the energy to pursue researching Oklahoma’s Tar Creek environmental disaster. Her grandpa worked in the lead and zinc mines and her great grandmother and grandmother worked at the Quapaw Indian Agency, where the minerals were initially mined. Turning Plow Press published Once Upon a Tar Creek Mining for Voices in 2021. Her most recent poems have appeared or upcoming in Verse-Virtual, Gyroscope Review, Moss Piglet, Hiroshima Day Anthology, Oklahoma Humanities, and Writing In a Woman’s Voice. More can be found at

How to Behave with the Very Old
by Elizabeth Dunford

Yes, of course, enunciate clearly,
turn up the volume if required, but please,
do not address me as if I were an infant.
I may share childish accoutrements —
bibs, sippy cups, nappies, push-along walkers —
but I have lived a lot longer, witnessed far more
than you.

I’ve seen you eyeing up my bookshelves,
sneaking in bin-bags. Yes, I do want to keep
that shoebox of postcards.
Don’t dump the poster paint portraits,
fridge magnets from Filey,
leather bible awarded to my grandmother
for faultless attendance at Sunday School.
At least have the decency to wait
until I’ve gone.

Don’t switch on the telly without consulting me.
I’m fed up with inane sofa-chatter,
gameshow hosts who grin with gleaming teeth.
And you can stop wittering on
about the weather and the traffic on the ring road
and the lovely poinsettia on my windowsill.

Words, words, words.
Sometimes, I yearn for quiet.

PAINTING: Then the old woman mounted on the Ifrit’s back by Marc Chagall (1948).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was written during a year when I spent a lot of time visiting a care home, where my 91-year-old father was staying. During that period, I was able to observe the frustrations of elderly people who know they are losing their faculties, but cannot bear to be patronised. There were also amusing moments when my father, who had always been a most discreet, polite and gracious individual, lost his “filter” due to his increasing dementia, and said aloud what he really thought! Writing poems, for me, was a way of coping with the sadness of that time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Dunford won second place in the 2017 Carers UK poetry competition, and was recently published in Snakeskin. Her articles and book reviews have been published in Lapidus Journal and in NAWE’s Writing in Education. She is active in the poetry community and facilitates the Pen and Paper group at Bromley House Library as well as writing workshops with Lapidus and Nottingham Writers Studio. She enjoys performing in open mike poetry sessions — recently, of course, on Zoom. Elizabeth is interested in the relationship between writing and well-being and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes from the Metanoia Institute. She was born in India, grew up in Ulster, and has lived in Nottingham, England, for over 30 years.

licensed sandor kacso
by Sarah Russell

Leavings are untidy. Remembering
what you want to say as the car pulls away,
or the cell phone drops into your purse,
restraint in an embrace, the casual

see ya, when you ache for more.
There was that time my mother died—
a stiff, proud woman who did not touch.
She lay in bed, while her brothers and I

hovered. We asked if she needed a blanket,
if she wanted music, if she were hungry,
thirsty. At each offering, she jerked her head
from side to side, tight-lipped, angry.

Then the young, Hispanic hospice aide reached
out and took her hand. She knew what leavings
needed, what my mother couldn’t bring herself
to ask for, what we didn’t understand to give.

My mother sighed and held that gentle,
reassuring hand. The aide leaned in, caressed
a wisp of hair on her forehead. My mother smiled,
and took her last breaths.

Photo by Sandor Kacso, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For over 30 years I’ve regretted not knowing what my mother needed at the end of her life, and how grateful I am to the young woman who did. It helped to finally honor both of them in this poem.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Poppy Road Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere  and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at

dickson text
Graphic by Yekaterina Nalimanova, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My Aunt, who resides in an upstate New York state nursing facility, is the topic of this true poem. She is grateful to the dedicated medical staff, both caregivers and companions. Her family is most grateful that she is safe and hope to be able to resume in-person visits soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie A. Dickson is a New Hampshire poet whose work addresses nature, current events, animal welfare, elephants in captivity. Her poetry has appeared in various journals, including Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Quarterly, Blue Heron Review, The Avocet and The Harvard Press. She is a member of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, and has coordinated workshops as well as 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Her full-length works of poetry and Young Adult fiction can be found on Amazon.

Trying to Keep My Father Safe in the Time of Covid-19
by Gail Goepfert

At 97, hasn’t he survived it all.
Rolled all the dice. Laid it all on the line.

World War II. Battle of the Bulge.
Baths taken from his helmet in foxholes.

Reckless teen years of three children.
Gallbladder, sinus, cataract surgery.

Job loss and transfers. Debt.
Widowhood. Late-stage cerebral fog.

He functions but totters now      shuffles—
too many falls of late. His knees buckle.

I caution, then will him not to try the stairs—
picture him in isolation, a hospital casualty.

No more Wal-mart, Dad. No more. I hear
myself beg. I fear he can’t master mask

and gloves, cart and cane. Or remember
not to rub his cloudy eyes, his drippy nose.

We delay the lawyer will-signing—put off
planning for demise for fear of dying.

PAINTING: “Crepuscular Old Man” by Salvador Dali (1917-1918).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Goepfert, an associate editor at RHINO Poetry, is the author of three books—A Mind on Pain (Finishing Line Press), Tapping Roots (Kelsay Books), and Get Up Said the World appearing in 2020 (Červená Barva Press). Recent publications include Journal of Compressed Arts, Bluestem, Rogue Agent, and Beloit Poetry Journal.Visit her at and on Facebook and Twitter.


Before her art restoration at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church was rudely interrupted by local officials in Borja, Spain, Cecilia Gimenez, 81, intended to repair the neglected 19th century fresco to work off some her Purgatory time. Let’s face it, at Cecilia’s advanced age, she thinks about such things — thinks about them a lot!

Now, Cecilia has found a new way to apply her artistic talents — and do good works that will shave away some time in the fiery furnace. (Note for Non-Catholics: Purgatory is like hell — only temporary.) She has volunteered at a Spanish tattoo parlor (see below), where she has agreed to tattoo images of winged beings onto the assorted and sundry body parts of the unholy unwashed.


Cecilia thought this penance would be akin to the Lord washing the apostles’ feet, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way. To date, she has not felt a sublime union with the divine — but has only experienced an endless barrage of ridiculous requests for unnameable creatures and obscene sayings.

When she offered to draw winged creatures on the tattoo parlor patrons, she thought she would be inking in angels, cherubs, and even an archangel or two. Instead, she’s faced with persnickety customers who expect her to recreate intricate drawings of Pegasus and every last flying demon from the Inferno.

Cecilia has decided to keep the gig until she figures out another way to do penance through good works.



Cecilia Gimenez, 81, still doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about — and has no idea why news outlets around the world are criticizing her handiwork. (The arbiters of taste don’t like the way she restored a 19th century fresco of  Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.) But she knows her work is excellent — no matter what the elitists say.

After all, didn’t an early critic call Henri Matisse‘s work, “A pot of paint thrown in the face of the public”? Didn’t the art world call Picasso‘s cubist paintings “devilish and insane”? Didn’t they call Dali‘s surrealist works “deranged”? Cecilia feels that these examples — and many more  she won’t bother to cite — prove that the art elite don’t know the real thing when they see it.

But there was one art critic who understood — Clement Greenberg, who said: “All profoundly original art appears ugly at first.” So there!

Despite all the media attention, Cecilia found time to apply her craft to an Andy Warhol masterwork — his portrait of Marilyn Monroe (below). (For the uninitiated, Cecilia Gimenez’s version is on the right.) When asked why she had selected this particular painting for her next effort, Cecilia responded that she’s long been an admirer of the American icon and for years has modeled her hairstyle on the deceased blonde’s locks.



Unless you’ve sworn off the news during the past few days, you’re familiar with Cecilia Gimenez, the 81-year-old attempting to shave off a few Purgatory points by doing some good works — in this case, restoring a 19th century fresco of Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.

For the record (and this is why I’m not showing how she ruined the icon), this blog assiduously avoids discussions of religion or politics — that’s not our territory. But I couldn’t resist commenting on this story — there are so many levels and layers to it.

First, it’s a fine example when your children ask, “What does it mean when someone says ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’?”

Second, it shows the value of getting regular eye checkups. I have to wonder if Cecelia Gimenez has cataracts. Before her cataract operation, my mother could not distinguish yellow from white or brown from purple. She had the front door of her house painted a Barney purple, thinking it was “umber” (true story, and I have the photos to prove it!).

Third, I’m wondering if the other parishioners stopped Cecilia Gimenez before she was finished with her work. (You know how messy works-in-progress can look!)

Finally, I feel this story expresses the importance of art education — and why we need to support funding for the arts (hey, that sounds political).

Cecilia Gimenez refuses to repent for her sins (mortal? venial?) and appears belligerent, arrogant, self-satisfied, defiant, and convinced her work is beautiful. Wait a minute. She sounds like most of the artists I know. Welcome to the club, Cecilia!

Articles about this art restoration debacle have swept the Internet — but my favorite is a piece at called “Octogenarian Restorer Strikes Again.” The brilliantly written article imagines what Cecilia Gimenez could accomplish if allowed to restore some of the world’s art treasures, including Andy Warhol‘s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor  (below), Munch’s “The Scream,” Van Gogh‘s self-portrait, Vermeer‘s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and Leonardo‘s “Mona Lisa.”