Carol V. Davis

Music Minus One

Sometimes I practiced using Music Minus One:
Telemann’s Trio Sonata in C Major. The harpsichord
accompaniment unflappable whenever I stumbled.

I wished the recording would pause on its own,
wait for me to catch up. Slow does not mean easy.
I learned to count in 8th notes. Challenging,

as I was never good in math. A woodwind instrument
strengthened my lungs, helping my asthma,
as I summoned the will to regulate my breath.

Now. as my husband loses words, he scrambles,
growing more and more frustrated.
My own responses speed up, irritation mounting.

“Think about the connections between the notes”
my music teacher once said. I tried to measure
the rests correctly, but I’d enter too soon or half a bar late.

My husband’s speech beats a staccato rhythm,
a frantic search for what he cannot find.
A sentence minus one.

Dots and Dashes

My husband invents a new language
of dots and dashes punctuated by words
mismatched to his actual demands.
Pull up the book, he exhorts, meaning
the comforter, now bunched at his feet.
A sputter of irritation
when I don’t comprehend.

Later he stands, spins, pauses like
a dreidel unsure what side to land on.
The swirl of color mid-motion
lost to him: Orange, bright blue,
green of ficus leaves.
Even before the diagnosis, he could
not see the flash of color mid-twirl.
A sign something was wrong.

Nun, you get nothing, hey you get half.
To replenish a pile of walnuts
or pennies or nothing at all.
We’d settle for a portion.
Not what he once was, but

some semblance.
Not this shell of a man.



Carol V. Davis is the author of Below Zero (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023), Because I Cannot Leave This Body (Truman State Univ. Press, 2017) and Between Storms (TSUP, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Her poetry has been read on National Public Radio, the Library of Congress and Radio Russia. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, she taught in Siberia, winter 2018 and teaches at Santa Monica College, California and Antioch Univ. Los Angeles. She was awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant for Siberia in 2020, postponed because of Covid restrictions and now cancelled.