I “Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
She goes most any where she used to go,
with help and planning, going slow,
and can do most things she used to do
but very little that’s really new.
She blindly watches TV ‘breaking news‘,
where talking heads spew tired words and views;
yet walks with help at ninety three,
as lone and lonely as old age can be
who loses loved ones almost every day,
whose loyal foes have even gone away
to that mausoleum in the mind,
invisible, unknown and undefined.
The history she lived- redacted- gone,
her universal truths now considered wrong,
she’s wantonly outlived her life;
and none else recalls its joys or strife.
She searches neuronal tangled time
for some meaning in the paradigm
that she lives on here, on and on
after shared memory is long gone.
She vainly queries her past to find
Why loved ones leave, but leave her behind;
Asks aloud a question no one hears:
“Why do I live so far beyond my years?”
But her old cat curls and purrs, and then
that oral history student comes again
about an Occam’s Razor essay;
Or the Gordian Knot? – she cannot say.
The visit fills her shadowed room with light
like sunrise in the middle of the night;
The young know light’s speed’s so fast
it untangles the future from the past.
*The title refers to tangled neurofibrils sometimes seen in the brain in very advanced age. The poem is about a very old woman in a nursing or rest home affected, perhaps, by such tangles. Occam’s razor refers to a problem-solving principle attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), It can be stated as Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The Gordian Knot is a legend of Phrygian King Gordium . It is often used as a metaphor for solving an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) by “cutting the Gordian knot”):
This solitary cell is lonely
but far from inmate strife;
in cement walled stillness
I call up a wistful memory
of a long gone former life.
It’s early morning when we wake
from dreams of a rustic cabin
at one end of an endless road.
Does anyone know how long?
Who cares? Whatever it takes!
The rising mountain fills our senses
with scent of pine, and mossy damp.
Cries of angry gravel as we pass
frighten tiny meadow flowers
corralled by wind-bent grass.
Our excited little Geo,
fretful, and fearfully aware,
creeps past feral rocks
by a swirling singing stream
where birdsong colors the air.
I imagine a woman like this river,
beautiful, strong, soft and constant.
But a steep stretch of rutted road
makes the Geo stall and stop
unable to carry its peopled load.
Cramped legs and minds unbend
To unburden the grateful car;
Whining mosquito gangs attack
like a teasing older brother;
and I fondly bite them back.
We reach that fearful place
between a clutching abyss
and leaning cruel black cliffs.
I close my eyes up tight
to keep death out of sight.
My Uncle laughs and claims
“The mountain’s coming down.”
We pass a remembered spring
that weeps and sings of rain
and snow and lightening,
Where clear stone washed water
bred in stoney darkness,
born of a granite womb
becomes the newborn river
that leads us all to the sea.
Then I see it! The green gate!
I can hardly wait to know
of grandma’s secret things;
what wonderments she’ll show
like Scrabble and music she sings.
The Geo finds a place to hide
between dark woods on either side
and spits us out upon the road
like giddy human pack mules
fretting about their load.
I stagger under the weight
but stubbornly add more,
to shorten my anxious wait
for auntie’s fresh baked pies,
campfire songs and remembered lies.
The old cabin rises to greet us
dressed in hand made shingles
my father split and nailed there
sweating beer and singing curses
at the wild mountain air.
When his bright light died
we placed his lonely ashes
there by his favorite tree,
by the tomb of my childhood
and the cradle of juvenile rage.
Through this silent six side cell
runs a road by a singing river
that leads to the soulful sea.
And I hope whatever was lost
Still lives and thrives in me.