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.