Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Clock Shoe

The Clock Shoe

By Sandra Berris

Mother can't remember who I am,
talks in riddles, shifts place
and time mid-sentence.

Her body looks the same, her face
under a tent of tidy gray hair,
sweet, alert, yet wild-eyed.

Of memories we shared
and used to laugh about
I have my half only.

She thinks she's in trouble
with her mother for staying out too late
with a girlfriend, both long dead.

Today when I visit Mother
she opens the door a crack.
She calls me aside to ask,

"Who is that man?
He's very nice, and I don't
want to hurt his feelings,"

as she points toward my father,
"but I really must have him leave now."
They've been wed for fifty years.

I give her that simple Alzheimer's test, the task
of drawing a clock face with paper and pencil,
but she ponders, "Hmm, a clock?"

and stalls. "I could draw a violin."
A clock sits on the table in front of her
and she deftly draws a shoe. "A clock shoe,"

we laugh and begin a new set of memories
that will last her only for minutes.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter 1996)


Sandra Berris was co-founder and co-editor of Whetstone Literary Magazine, 1982-2000. Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines including Arts Alive, the Midwest Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Rhino, and Willow Review. In 1996 she was awarded Prairie Schooner's Hugh J. Luke Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize. Her poem "Clock Shoe" was included in the anthology Best of Prairie Schooner (University of Nebraska Press, 2001) celebrating the magazine's 75th anniversary.

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