It’s Common for Alzheimer’s Patients to Reach for a Word

by Sarah Carey

they know, that comes to them like air
or the name of their first dog

or the children: oldest, middle, baby
though I am all my siblings now

the therapist says it’s not unusual
for my mother to call her medicine the virus

as everything we’ve breathed this past year
is pandemic, normal for her to say she ate

the virus for breakfast lunch or dinner
—a side of virus, virus over-easy—

as every helper at the house is masked
but my mother remembers

scrambled soft, how my stepfather
held her close when she lost the job,

how he wore his one good suit
to deliver bad news but not the news itself

other than it concerned my grandmother
she remembers her husband loved

but my father hated. My fault, she says
of the divorce, enunciates desire quite clearly

Sarah Carey is a graduate of the Florida State University creative writing program. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Five Points, Zone 3, SWWIM Every Day, Split Rock Review, Atlanta Review, Grist, and elsewhere. Her book reviews have appeared recently or are pending in Salamander, EcoTheo Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Los Angeles Review.

Sarah’s poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Orison Anthology. Her poetry chapbook, Accommodations (2019) received the Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. Visit her at or on Twitter @SayCarey1.