Gail Thomas

Sestina to Alzheimer's

You are the long, stalking shadow
that hovers behind my words, a sieve
that sorts the past into piles of keep or erase.
Each morning you threaten to raze
my unfolded days, to dull what is bright,
expose what waits as lies.

You tangler of truth, cruelest liar,
poseur at the gates, strangler of shadows,
burglar of years. Bright
hope pressed through your sieve
becomes a thin draft neither raised
or praised, its sweetness erased.

Your whim decides which scenes to erase:
the one where I am betrayed, lies
uncovered, the one where I raze
a marriage, deny my name's shadow.
Caught in your sadistic sieve
they play on endless loop, bright

and damning. Mother's bright
smile, the only light you cannot erase.
Troubles lost through your sieve
remain a blessing where they lie
harmless outside your shadow.
I feel your curse, memory razed.

Even these lines cannot raze
the terror of crossing into a bright
dayroom where every name is shadow
and poems are erased.
My stoic face belies
the fear of losing the word for sieve.

How else to manage, to sieve
for nuggets of joy, how else to raze
the rotten pilings, to lie
back with ease, cling to what is bright, erase
all but the kindest shadows.

Your genetic shadow slips my sieve,
your eraser evades my razor,
even your brightest statistic may lie.

One More Thing About My Mother

She was a beauty, did I forget to say?
Empty closets hold regret.
I use her umbrella on each gray day.

Ties of blood and duty frayed,
words unburied, needs unmet.
She was a beauty, did I forget to say?

I bore children and moved away,
took lovers she tried to forget.
I use her umbrella on each gray day.

She made novenas, kneeled to pray
for me to find a man, my path reset.
She was a beauty, did I forget to say?

Times she blessed when I obeyed,
those I cursed without her touch, yet
I use her umbrella on each gray day.

That smile burns in photos today,
wounds we carried, amends we met.
She was a beauty, did I forget to say?
I use her umbrella on each gray day.


In morning meadow wet with dew,
the dog knows only joy although

a weight is lodged below my chest,
and dull with thought I miss the crest

of hill where, bounding like a deer
on springs, he leaps to make it clear.

A shower shakes from each wet ear
and burrs between his legs adhere,

yet nothing curbs the lesson of this play:
to live without regret for yesterday

and with abandon meet what comes.
Indulge each scent from scat or crumb,

ignore the easy path to take.
To chase a squirrel is not mistake,

though every day it climbs too high:
the purest gift, this will to try.


Poet and teacher Gail Thomas has published four books: Odd Mercy (2016), Waving Back (2015), No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley (2001) and Finding the Bear (1997). Odd Mercy was chosen by Ellen Bass for the Charlotte Mew Prize of Headmistress Press, and its "Little Mommy Sonnets" won Honorable Mention for the Tom Howard/ Margaret Prize for Traditional Verse. Also, Waving Back was named a Must Read for 2016 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival.


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Megan Marlatt:Looking like large puppet heads, it was "anima", the root of "animation", that led me to the making of the big heads, (or "capgrossos" as they are called in Catalonia where I learned the craft.) Anima is the soul or what breathes life into a being and to animate an inanimate object, an artist must insert a little soul into it. However to bring attention to what is invisible, (the soul), I chose to mold its opposite in solid form: the persona, the ego, the big head, the mask. Nearly every culture across the globe has masks. They allow performers to climb into the skin of another being and witness the other's world from behind their eyes. While doing so, the mask erases all clues of the performer's age, gender, species or race. In this regard, I find them to be the most transformative and empathic of all human artifacts.

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