Hold You 

“Beware of the tigers, shunar beti 1,” 

you warn each time I leave the hospital. 

As if the Moulvibazar jungle had 

twined its vines around the streets of Heath 

and tigers roamed the cherry-blossomed roads. 


Forced to watch your fairy lights wink out. 

One by one, your memories drop off the shelf 

slowly, as a spider drags a fly 

from knowing to confusion to certainty 

over and over and over again. 


“D’you know they took my car back?” 

You fret each time I sit on your settee. 

As if the years you spent zooming left and right 

on errands for family meant nothing now 

that you sometimes forget your left, your right. 


You fill your wall with faces you can’t place, 

every hesitation before you say my name stings. 

I promise to hold you as Abba, as Nan – 

fixing a car, buttering my toast. 


Hanan Issa

Bardd Cenedlaethol Cymru | National Poet of Wales

(To note World Alzheimer’s Day, Wednesday 21 September 2022
1 Bengali term of endearment meaning ‘golden girl’)

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