In the ancient world, orators built palaces of memory to remind them, as they made a lengthy speech, where they were in their text. Parts of the speech were identified with objects (war: a spear; peace: a dove), and these objects were placed in a building, real or imagined, through which the orator walked, mentally or physically, while she rehearsed. When the time came to perform in public, this walk took place in the mind of the speaker while she spoke, to all appearances standing fast.

Parkinson's is movement mislaid, in the body and the mind. It is a progressive disease to which we have, as yet, no cure; but you can give it as hard a time as it is giving you. My diagnosis has led to renewed exercise (tai chi, walking, stair climbing, stretching) and a return to the wellsprings of verse: those poems that most impressed me as a young adult. I have decided to commit as many of them as I can to memory.

The poems to follow are for me and for you. They neither comfort nor cure. But when I cannot move as I would, when sitting with friends or lying alone or awake at night, I run through the palace of these poems. It improves my mood, reminds me why I'm here, and encourages me to go on. Go on. Build your own.


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