In a recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme, The Art of Living, the poet Frank Ormsby discusses how his life has changed since he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. His medication, he believes, has aided his creativity. But it has also induced hallucinations. He finds himself sitting on his own in his study but surrounded by people, by the ghosts of his mother-in-law and unidentified visitors. And he's also haunted by a fear that the earth will open up and swallow him.
When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, his response was unexpected. He embarked on a newly fertile creative period, documenting his experiences and finding a voice in his poetry that he was beginning to lose in his daily communications.
His first act was to search Google - for jokes. "Which would you rather have, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Obviously Parkinson's! I'd rather spill half my pint than forget where I left it."
As he discusses with Marie-Louise Muir, the illness has changed him. It's mellowed him. After a career as a school teacher, his daily life is now quieter and more solitary. There's a poetry, almost, in his pauses and silences.
I find his following poem about his hallucinations very powerful
"Wherever i sit
at the corner of my eye
they fade in fade out
melt into elsewhere before i can see faces
who is that girl i sense at my shoulder?
who is that dancing lazily on my table until i look up?
are they playing a game?
do they mean me any harm?
not one has appeared twice or uttered a sound
they will never amount to a family or a circle of friends
a black spider with its heart in its mouth is legging it across the floor tiles towards the nearest shade
he is strangely human
and visible all the way
so used to them have I become
so aware without thinking of their nameless presence and their ways of peopling a room
I spoke absently to one lurking in my mother-in-laws chair
and called it Jean
and asked about an imminent journey
when I looked in its direction it disappeared
not much conversation to be shared with a neurological disturbance
everyone else in the room
if indeed anybody else was there
and a lonliness beyond reason began to take hold
and things impossible lost themselves again
in a round of regrets
there was no breakthrough
there was no crossing of lines
my silent visitors wouldn't startle a mouse
so still they sit
sometimes on every chair in the conservatory
they might be teachers or civil servants
with a taste for line dancing and country music
at times they exude a kind of homelessness
displaced beings crashing at my pad
they have the fearsome patience of invalids
whatever it is they are waiting for
they'll wait forever"