It is the suddenness of crossing
that cannot be comprehended
One moment she is among us
reaching for her purse
and then she falls
It is the tongue protruding
and silenced
as the brain chokes,
a clammy right hand
hanging down
its weight of flesh (and fate)

The nurses clean and cuddle
talk in numbers—
b.p. one-ten-over-sixty—
and these we babble to friends
and those givers of ill advice,
hours when the smells are
not our own, even children
quietening down
in the sudden blow of dumbness
where she lives

After a journey of many simplicities
we spy her still
alone, at a great distance, immobile
behind that other number

none can guess   We practise
but she cannot
speak read or write
at first    we smash up
inside    all night
after the hours of visitation have safely
passed and the dark leads us
away    lone on the ward
she hunts for bed
car   teeth   comb

Questions and Answers

About “Aphasia”:

When asked about my writing, I am sometimes reminded of this comment by Michael Ondatjee’s in Transitions III: Poetry (CommCept Publishing, 1978): “What I believed or felt when I wrote these poems is obviously not what I believe or feel now. One little nuance, one little image, and everything changes.”

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