“Parkinson’s (Father)”


Parkinson’s (Father)

My brain, see, now has to consciously
tell my feet to move.

I mean, he tries a laugh, your brain
always tells your feet to move
on some level, but now
I have to remind them how.

I do see what he means soon enough, as
my father, the opener of all
that needs to be opened, the keeper
of all that needs to be kept safe, targets
a key towards a door as
one might aim a dart, his forearm moving
back and forth as if to throw it,
though he pushes now–
here–here–trying spots about the knob
as one might poke
a needle into the fabric backing a button, pricking
one’s way to its eyes, or as one
might thread the eye
of the needle itself, poignantly.

But the disease progresses, as territorial
as Genghis Khan, and soon all
the buttons in his world are blocked, refuse
to be battened, will not even
be pushed down, until finally, his own eyes
seem locked behind the placket
of stiff lids.

I see the strain of forehead, the
conscious manipulation of muscle, nerve,
above struggling chest, until at last
the mottled blue of his pupils targets
our own.  I love you, he whispers, the opener
of all that needs to be opened, the keeper
of all things safe.



I wrote the above for dVerse Poets Pub‘s Poetics prompt of “buttons,” hosted today by the indefatigably kind and creative Brian Miller, but I am also linking up with Real Toads for their Open Link Monday.

Secondly, a big apology to my father in absentia – I am not sure what that drawing is supposed to be- it looks nothing at all like my father, or even really like a man, or a button come to think of it.  But I was at the hairdresser today in honor of Nora Ephron, and that’s the drawing I made, thinking of Brian’s prompt.

Do check out the wonderful poets at dVerse and Real Toads, if you have the time, and also check out my books!  Children’s counting book 1 Mississippi -for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms.  Or, if you in the mood for something older, check out Going on Somewhere, poetry, or  Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.

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35 Comments on ““Parkinson’s (Father)””

  1. ugh,so hard. A moving read, handled with tenderness.

  2. hedgewitch Says:

    This is a very emotionally adept, almost lacy poem of such sadness, yet it holds a cup of comfort, too, in those last lines, because some things really can’t be taken away. The descriptions are clean and cutting, the erosion of control, and the loss almost overpowering, but underneath the sense that there are things which are inalienable our selves, however hard it may be to access them. Very fine poem, k.

  3. You brought tears to my eyes – I love this

  4. zongrik Says:

    my grandma had Parkinson, so i can see how sewing a button would be one of the first things to go, along with threading a needle.

    3 radio button senryu

  5. I love the drawing. He seems to be flying! Very hard to see someone you know and love lose control of their movement through something like Parkinson’s. I can also see how sewing on a button would become a monumental task too.
    Very heartfelt write.

  6. Mary Says:

    This is very poignant, very loving, very sad. Having known and cared about someone with Parkinsons, I see It as so accurate that it hurts. It is the most moving poem I have read today. So sad the ending, but that is what that dreadful disease does.

  7. This really touched me – you describe the situation, the emotion, without the clumsy mawkishness that often mars these sorts of poems. I am very impressed.

  8. Magnificent and potent.

  9. brian miller Says:

    thank you ma’am…i am making it…holed up at a starbucks right now playing catch up…the fam is asleep in the basement already to keep cool…

    your poem def plucks the strings for me…much like dementia poems, it frightens me a bit…the telling your feet to move, the inability to do things we once could…its very moving k….

    nice use of the button in this as well…

  10. Chazinator Says:

    Heart-breakingly poignant. You have drawn his frailty so faithfully, yet lovingly, though it breaks your heart to put it into words. In this world destitute of memory, time takes its toll on those who love. One can only hope that after all is forgotten, that love itself endures. Your poem gives hope this is so.

  11. janehewey Says:

    this is beautiful and strong. your lines with “the opener” and “the keeper” cut to the center for me. a difficult subject, nicely contained. ~jane

  12. Wow, that was an intimate piece that was hard to read.

    My old neighbour, who became a grandfather to me after out family moved to NZ from South Africa is struggling with Parkinson’s at the moment and it is so hard to watch him deteriorate in front of my eyes with nothing I can do.

    Working out how to handle it is difficult as my natural reaction is to try and help, but he obviously wants to do things for himself when he can.

    Well written.

  13. PS: I actually like the drawing haha! A nice edition to the poem.

  14. kaykuala Says:

    The mood of sadness and empathy is clearly evident, K! The verse reflects that feeling of sharing in times of need Great write!


  15. Claudia Says:

    the opener
    of all that needs to be opened, the keeper
    of all things safe…
    so hard to see them struggle with sickness…oh heck karin…that brought tears to my eyes…

  16. David King Says:

    I love you, he whispers, the opener
    of all that needs to be opened, the keeper
    of all things safe.

    What a gorgeous way to sign off from a poem that combines beauty with sadness and pain. We have a couple of friend who suffer from this dreadful disease, so I can relate to every word of this. Passages like

    a key towards a door as
    one might aim a dart, his forearm moving
    back and forth as if to throw it,
    though he pushes now–

    for instance. And reminding the feet how to move. A sad masterpiece, but a masterpiece indeed.

  17. Ravenblack Says:

    Very sad. It’s hard to read.

    I agree with Dave. This is a masterpiece for it is so vivid in portraying the one who used to be one to go to affected in this manner by this disease.

  18. A tough and touching poem, and the drawing seems perfect; the button now larger and stronger than the Superman he once was.

  19. Evocative and apt use of the prompt to show the loss for him and you

  20. Lovely portrayal of your father as the opener and keeper….the emotional close in the last stanza is very good.


  21. Ruth Says:

    oh this is deep & hits hard, makes me ache for the father & the daughter both…

  22. Gay Says:

    A very important poem, each thing in its place. I agree with Dave, it is a masterpiece. Through a series of observations the metaphor of loss evolves and authority devolves with remembrance being the outstanding symbol shining through the entire piece.

  23. beckykilsby Says:

    This is such a powerful piece..its very undertsatement makes it so. It is an homage – classical in its restraint but carrying the weight and textures of specific love.

    Wonderful poetry.

  24. kolembo Says:

    Absolutely! Gorgeous this, very powerful, very nicely written.

  25. Susan Says:

    I love the picture and the extended metaphor. I have trouble threading the needle, let alone pricking the back of the cloth through to find the button eye. If love is the true key, you have it and I feel it in every line of this poem. Thank you.

  26. Margaret Says:

    You brought to life the horror of this disease… and your gentleness to his feeling trapped. The I love you at the end ripped my heart out as I remember watching my grandmother deteriorate with this disease. Once a teacher so full of knowledge and zest… just sitting, bent over in a chair, unable to speak clearly…

  27. This is just heartbreaking. You have written so honestly and without sentiment, which makes it all the more poignant. I think we all fear this dread disease in those we love, and ultimately, in ourselves.

  28. arrrrghhhhh!!!!! How sad is that. My uncle had Parkinson’s too. What a great piece of work, ripped at my heart the whole way through but I am so glad that I read it.

  29. […] ♦Karin Gustafson, a/k/a Manicddaily, is a writer and illustrator.  Her books include a collection of poetry, Going on Somewhere, a children’s counting book, 1 Mississippi, and, most recently, Nose Dive (available in Kindle and print), a light-hearted mystery novel about love, youth, noses, and music on the brain in downtown New York City. (More information about the books may be found at www.BackStrokeBooks.com and at Amazon.)  Karin Gustafson at: http://ManicDDaily.wordpress.com♦ […]

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