Five Poems

The Tip of Your Tongue

Anomic aphasia is characterized by the inability to remember the appropriate word to identify an object, a person’s name, or numbers.

When you couldn’t recall your children’s names

that raced from you like leaves red and ochre

down the river that bordered the hospital,

we thought you’d lost most of what you’d cared for,

that kept you here. But the day after the stroke,

we learned it was only the names of things

you couldn’t surface: the handles of objects

and people, ideas too slippery to grasp,

suspended in middle space just beyond

recollection and the tip of your tongue.

Through the following weeks, conversation

became a parlor game (“two syllables,

sounds like…”), and you spoke in poetry

until the rewiring was complete,

and the world’s captioning reappeared.

And yet I’ll confess--although I treasured

each step as you got better--I wanted

that poetry to remain, to watch you

push aside the symbols, and labor

through frustration to share the living heart

of what made up your world--“bird leaf” for feather,

and “word box” for book. And most of all

I wanted to watch you, with every glance

at me, retrieve--not the shortcut of my name--

but just what it was that I meant to you.