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Paul Rousseau

Bettyville: A Poem

There are no sirens or streaks of
neon shining through the window.
I am installed here,
in Missouri,
the furnace startled to service,
slapping the air if I come too close.
I am a loner but I hate to lose people;
I can only imagine how scary it is to
know that the person one is losing is oneself.
Torrents of rain come and thunderclaps crash.
Vapor rises.
I watch the rain overflow the gutters
and fall in cascades.
Winter is coming.

Mornings in New York,
I sipped my coffee and
watched the people,
ancient ladies with
sparse. filament-like hair,
blaring lipstick,
and streaks of red on their faces—
old showgirl types with cosmetic overdose.
(When dealing with older women,
a trip to a hairdresser and two
Bloody Marys goes further than
any prescription drug).

Betty sticks a dirty spoon in the
pocket of her robe.
Her clothes are mean tattletales;
they keep record of every day’s spills,
every crumb or bit of lint, everything
she has brushed against.
Sometimes, she cannot make out how
much of her life has accumulated on her clothes
because clouds have settled in her
large, saucer-like eyes.

She is anxious,
her mind unwilling to rest—
the mutterings and whimpers,
the troubled utterances—
so I stretch my arm across her shoulder.
We say nothing at all.

Source & Method

I purchased a book titled Bettyville, written by George Hodgman. Mr. Hodgman returned to Missouri from New York City to care for his mother Betty who had developed dementia. Several words, phrases, and sentences were underlined by a reader of the book. This found poem is composed of a selection of those underlined writings.

Paul Rousseau (he/him/his) is a semi-retired physician and writer published in sundry literary and medical journals. Nominated for The Best Small Fictions anthology from Sonder Press, 2020.

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Issue 26