The Woman Who Can’t Forget: Alzheimer’s Disease

Jill Price was the first person to be diagnosed with what scientists have termed
hyperthymestic syndrome.  Her autobiographical memory is so strong that she
remembers virtually every event in her life from the age of fourteen.

Before anyone noticed, I’d lose what I did
last week, what time I saw my dentist,
who called me Tuesday night.  Then I’d
lose more, lose faster, plaques and tangles
taking over the Challenger explosion,
All in the Family, fights with my mom.
In nightmares, I’m asked for facts my brain
has swallowed or mislaid.  I wake up gasping,
answer the dark with everything I did
that day, on that date every year until I sleep.
If I think I might forget where I bought
my sweater, how long I’ve had my couch,
I test myself with flashcards, diaries I’ve kept
since I was ten.  Most people remember
what fits the self they know, discard
what doesn’t.  What happened is all I have.
CARRIE SHIPERS'S poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Connecticut Review, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Laurel Review, New England Review, North American Review, and other journals.  She is the author of two chapbooks, Ghost-Writing (Pudding House, 2007) and Rescue Conditions (Slipstream, 2008), and a full-length collection, Ordinary Mourning (ABZ, 2010).