Rachel Prince

Aphasia And Other Natural Disasters

When the doctor told Uncle he’d never speak again,
He was silent almost an entire minute before he fought the diagnosis, trying to recite poetry out loud
When only silence echoed through the hospital room, he wailed like a fish out of water
A man with a thousand stories floating in his head
crumbled to nothing like wet sand
He was a sea snake, tangled up in his sheets and slicked with sweat
Blue veins slicing through brown paper-bag skin.

The stroke had swirled up
like a goddess from one of his tales,
arriving at the house like a thief
Turning his own mouth against him while he was in the midst of a story
I watched his face contort as if he were playing a character
Three days later, the doctors said it had been “a doozy.”
Uncle might’ve had a better word for it, had he been able to speak.

Before the stroke,
He had breathed characters out of dust, new voices out of the wind
Like God prided in Adam, the child of his ribcage,
Uncle birthed stories from his own body
He split the earth open, bringing the unforgettable to the mundane
Bringing entire worlds into existence
The man who could talk the stars into the palm of his hand
Now could not summon a single word to his tongue.

He gripped my hand from within the hospital bed, his eyes pleading for me to understand
He parted his lips, to try again
Only a thin fountain of spit erupted in the corner
His heart rate on the flashing screen sang a mournful song, slow and tedious
A whisper of wind climbed out from his trachea, meeting a silent echo with no return
A story wanting to be born, dampened by his leaden tongue
Gone like it had never even been there.