The first poem talks about a trip to Spain she made in the early 70s, doing research for her dissertation on Spanish romanesque churches. At the time, Spain was still under the thumb of General Francisco Franco, a fascist and a promoter of "Traditional Family Values"...
1972 – Segovia, Spain OUT OF PLACE
Noon, sun-filled plaza
bounded by hotels, restaurants, small cars
atop Segovia’s hill.
Pink cathedral, Gothic, at the far end;
aqueduct (unseen) down the hill—
Roman, of course.
Children shriek at play; girls jump
low to the ground over elastic ropes
in patterns unknown to me.
Alone. Sola. Sola: I await…
the opening of a museum? a library?
exposed by the sun of Segovia.
(Mostly I wait to go home….
to Vermont, to my children.
Did I dream them?)
Looking up from my journal, I see
people looking at me, looking at me.
I am sola.
Men go alone; women go in pairs, in groups.
Every woman escorted—
all but me.
Skirts hang below their knees;
My skirts end above.
(My jeans are also wrong, it seems.)
Question: what am I doing here, sola?
Researching un tesis doctoral?
(Even I don’t buy that story.)
So, I must walk…
Along Segovia’s winding alleys
seven Romanesque churches await me.
Stone walls, arches, weathered sculptures…
Sola, I find solace in old stones
in whose crevices flowers flourish—
out of place…
The second poem talks of my father's descent into Alzheimers. Too young... It was hard on all of us, but especially my mother, who took care of him for 17 years, ten of them with him at home.
I Remember His Forgetting
“Numbers don’t have the same meaning for me,”
he said. “I mean, like they used to.”
He, who scored 99 percentile on the GRE—he said that.
I didn’t believe him;
but he couldn’t balance the checkbook.
Camping in Colorado among the trees and birds became
a nightmare—or at least a bad dream.
He didn’t seem himself somehow.
Although the sun was shining…
At the first campsite, I followed his directions
as we erected the tent with its aluminum poles
and blue plastic covering, and pegs pounded
into the ground, to anchor it.
At the second campsite, he couldn’t put up the tent.
I had to figure it out on my own, visualizing
the various steps. It sort of worked,
but I was scared.
I supervised the packing up as we left; he followed
my directions… sort of…
He was puzzled; I was frightened.
I was cross.
Our dog Tom left us.
He ran up the hill and
sat down on our campsite.
He didn’t want to go home.