Aphasia – Anna Winham

broca’s aphasia

having bitten my tongue
for twenty-four years, i find
my words trapped in teeth,
and they push out stormy
and blazing, full of lightning, tempestuous.
i bite harder.
i swell. the roof of my mouth
is pasted three inches thick in paper,
and whatever it was i wanted to say
has lost its bite. i have only my eyes
and surprisingly long fingers.

i eat your words, swallow them slowly,
gulp and gasp like i might learn to
unclench this way, like i may lose
my fear of honesty, mimicking
what you say
is true.

wernicke’s aphasia

for years i have tried to decode you,
learning language after language,
tones, computers, uvular trills,
aesthetics, economics —
you must be post-structure.
your language must be spoken by
mantis shrimp
and aliens. you are irrevocably
foreign, inapprehesible. you are
one plus one-over-n to the nth power:
i have traced a trillion digits of you and
still you are all surface,
at which i repeatedly fling
my sentences. i always stumble. arabic
mixing with paint, memories
smudging saussure.
is this why i receive
no reply?

anomic aphasia

when encountering you, i turn
around to look for my words
and find they have fled.
when you have left they will return,
furtive, trembling, in fear of rebuke.
and so in only your absence i
chat with you, say all i would,
am candid and kind, tell you
what even just your left eye
can do to me.

i try lashing them to me
in anticipation of your arrival,
but the truest ones are clever and
conniving. fear has made them
this way.
and so i am left
alone or wrong-worded,
stringing elocution together,
unable to ask
why you do not love me.

Anna WinhamAnna Genevieve Winham writes and performs with the Poetry Society of New York. You can find her work in Q/A Poetry and (soon) in Oxford Public Philosophy and Rock & Sling. While attending Dartmouth College (which was the pits), she won the Stanley Prize (for experimental essay) and the Kaminsky Family Fund Award. She writes at the crossroads of science and the sublime, cyborgs and the surreal. As curious about your computer code as your existential dread, she flips from physics to fiction inside the same breath.