Ticking In the Silence, a haibun by Donna Fleischer / cattails, premier issue January 2014

Ticking In The Silence
Donna Fleischer, USA

neighbor elm
first friend the child
leaves behind

At 84, Ann my favorite aunt succumbed to dementia, swept away dust panned off to assisted living, healthy as an oak angry as hell. Her last civilian request—bring home a real burger! devoured it in gulps, no pinky finger full sail.

icy eaves
unable to land     the blue jay

With a port-wine stain on her left cheek and eyelid, independence seemed Ann’s refuge. At 20 she took her first train, Hartford to New York City, a modeling job audition. All that way for an assistant who would blurt out in a packed waiting room “And who do you think you are, coming here with a face like that?”

She’d pay for my mother and I to ride the train with her into Grand Central, go on expedition through the American Museum of Natural History, get lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and float all the way up the Empire State Building drop a nickel in the viewer, the sound of time ticking in the silence at the top of the world.

At 94, toward her days ending Ann loved for me to read aloud from of all things Joe Brainard’s I Remember, lighting up at each brass ring of a prose poem caught in a midair moment

nameless painting
on the ancient wall
. . . cold sun


Donna Fleischer
cattails, Premier issue
January 2014


    • sabine
    • January 1st, 2014

    Lovely tribute to your aunt, evokes memories of my grandmother, also a not quite pretty girl who in her last days in the nursing home complained, among other things, that the attendants were sneaking in at night to steal her underwear…

    • Sometimes I wondered if she just lost her neurological partitions — those that exert a certain semi-permeable membrane between thought and imagination and speech act.  Just because those purportedly stealing her underwear thought she’d lost it doesn’t mean that she wasn’t aware on some other level. I’ve also wondered if when those areas are affected by dementia, other areas take over. Thanks for your visit and reading, Sabine. Always feel a special “shine” after you’ve been here. – Donna


        • sabine
        • January 2nd, 2014

        You are the kindest. Yes, I believe that and have witnessed the other areas take over in a few exceptionally gifted people…someone once described mental illness such as psychosis as seeing the background exclusively, not being able to see the foreground. The background that is always there, can be verified by other people who can also see. ( Ie. ot just imagination.) My qigong teacher once pointed to a wall and said “This is made entirely of spirits!” I think of that now every time I lean up against a wall. Is it the same with paranoid dementia? I cant imagine any spirits who would show much interest in a 90 year old woman’s drawers, so yes, imagination too. I am rambling here. My experience with my grandmother ( who got very nasty in the end) made me want to clean up my karma a bit so that if I succomb to dementia, I won’t make life hell for people around me. I want to be the one who can still enjoy being read to…

    • sabine
    • January 2nd, 2014

    Not quite the same kind of dementia,,,)

  1. Lovely memories and gorgeous poetry, wrapped in a beautiful, bittersweet tribute. So sorry for your aunt’s suffering and for your loss, but feel you were blessed to have such a wonderful person and great influence in your life. Wishing you the best in the new year, Donna.

    • Just as you say, Windy — She was a blessing and tremendous influence. Your response wrapped me up in kindness and understanding. Thank you for your sensitive reading. I’m on my way to your blog now with many wishes to you for a wondrous new year. – Donna

      • Thank you, Donna. I so appreciate your friendship and acquaintance, all the wonderful and interesting things you post on your site, and thank you for your mutual support and inspiration. If I haven’t said so in the past, I admire your skill with the haiku, which I believe is a difficult form of expression to master, but you do it beautifully. Happy New Year. xo

        PS. In case you don’t have it, my email is windybuhler@mac.com – tuck it in your contact file. 🙂

      • Here’s to a continuing new year of mutuality in inspiration, admiration, support, and friendship. I value what you bring to the online sphere, particularly your fine sense of gathering together thought and art. Thanks for expressing your enjoyment of what is a difficult form. I have included your address in my e-mail contacts. Here’s to another year of discovery.

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