Esther Altshul Helfgott

Letter to Abe

– after Izumi Shikibu, a woman of ancient Japan
with thanks to Jane Hirshfield and The Ink Dark Moon

I’ve written
the story of our years
together, Abe
They still hold me
All of them.

At Thornton Creek
I saw a cormorant sunning
on a rock
I looked for you
but you weren’t there.

I wonder
which galaxy you’re in
Are we still
under the same moon?

I wish I knew
where you were tonight.
I would visit you.
Will you send me a message
soon? I’ll wait.

I don’t remember
yesterday. It’s the same as today.
The only difference is
the planet moved
slightly –

How lucky I
am to have
this chair,
the one you used
to sit in.

It took
you eight years to die.
All that time
I waited for you to get better.
Why didn’t you?

to Mozart , I see
us holding hands,
snuggling in the movies
watching Amadeus.

when I look in the mirror
I see you.
Even our hair is the same—
— curly and mussed.

no longer
a mourner’s

There is
no sorrow in my missing you
only gratefulness
that we have

But on some days
like today
the third anniversary
of your death
my heart longs.


Esther Altshul Helfgott is a nonfiction writer and poet with a PhD in history from the University of Washington. Her work appears in Blue Lyra Review, Journal of Poetry TherapyMaggid, American Imago, Raven Chronicles, Floating Bridge Review, Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease, HistoryLink, The Seattle PI blog pages, and elsewhere. She’s a longtime literary activist, a 2010 Jack Straw poet, and the founder of Seattle’s “It’s About Time Writer’s Reading Series,” now in its 23nd year. Esther’s book, Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems, is forthcoming from Cave Moon Press in 2013. The poem presented here is from her next manuscript, “After Alzheimer’s: Poems & Diary.”


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5 thoughts on “Esther Altshul Helfgott

  1. Great poem, Mom. I can picture you and Abe watching “Amadeus” on TV. I love that movie. I like the line where you wrote: “only gratefulness that we have been.”


  2. Dear Mrs. Helfgott,
    Just read your poem Letter to Abe and your blogpost about the person with Alzheimer’s not being a shadow. I am new to your work, but will not stay that way for long. I have been a caregiver/Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for 25 years, and have worked with many persons who suffered from Alzheimer’s, as well as several family members. I look forward to reading more of your work as I endeavor to explore continued work with persons with Alzheimer’s. God Bless You for all you do and share with us.

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