"Last spring and summer I taught poetry
writing at the American Nursing Home
in New York City.
The America Nursing Home is on the Lower East Side,
at Avenue B and Fifth Street.
... The students were all incapacitated
in some way, by illness or old age. Most
were in their seventies, eighties, and nineties.
Most were from the working class
and had a limited education.
... Some had recent memory loss, were forgetful,
tended to ramble a little when they spoke.
Everyone was ill,
some people sometimes in pain.
Depression was frequent.
A few were blind, and some had problems
... To be added to all this
was their confinement within the walls
and within the institutional regime
of the nursing home; they had little chance to find,
as poets usually do, fresh inspiration in new experiences,
sights, and sounds. Poetry, if they did write it,
would have to come from memory
and from what happened
and from what we could help make happen
in the nursing home."
~ Kenneth Koch,
From "I Never Told Anyone:
Teaching Poetry Writing in a Nursing Home"
[p. 3, 5]
Inside each of us, memories are locked to inspire us in the last years of life, to release a magical presence of ancestors into the world. While we yearn for a solution to the global crisis, let us not forget to remain open to the wisdom of those amongst us that remain, although invisible to most, alive and full of wisdom.
Society as a whole tends to lock our older people away, although in many cultures the wisdom of older people is revered. As they become more fragile on the outside, like dried up leaves and seed pods, they hold nevertheless a link to the past and the possibilities to help us in the future. Ancestors.....do you know yours?