The Needs of the Many

On the days when we wept—
and they were many—we did it
over the sound of a television
or radio, or the many engines
of the sky. It was rarely so quiet
we could hear just our sadness,
the smallness of it
that is merely the sound of wind
and water between the many pages
of the lungs. Many afternoons
we left the house still crying
and drove to a café or the movies,
or back to the hospital where we sat
dumb under the many eyes
of Paul Klee. There were many
umbrellas, days when it refused
to rain, cups of tea ignored. We
washed them all in the sink,
dry eyed. It’s been a while,
we’re cried out. We collect pauses
and have taken to reading actual
books again. We go through them
like yellow lights, like tunnels
or reunions, we forget which;
the older you are the more similes,
the more pangs per hour. Indeed,
this is how we break one hour into
many, how healing wounds time
in return. And though we know
there will always be crying to do,
just as there’s always that song,
always a leaf somewhere in the car,
this may be the only sweetness left,
to have a few griefs we cherish
against the others, which are many.


Copyright © 2015 by Brendan Constantine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This piece began as a series of notes from a period when I first began working with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. It was also a time of huge personal loss, when one discovers at depth the meaning of expressions heard for years. In this case it was, ‘You never get over it, kid. You just find a new normal.’ The poem is part of a forthcoming collection titled Dementia, My Darling, which will be published by Red Hen Press in 2016.”
Brendan Constantine