Dissertation: Aphasia

by on February 23, 2012

Issue 2 Poetry
Dissertation Aphasia
Illustration by Sally Scopa

The barista you used to know when you were younger
says Come, sit with me, and he tells you how
he doesn’t believe in reality anymore.

This chair, these teeth
could be anything that isn’t a chair,
or teeth.

Like the first dull
inspiration of color, how green eyes
are only ever the green they allow you to see.

You would take it
if you were fifteen and stoned,
and maybe later you would have tried
to unzip his jeans in the car,
but his mustache is curving below
his top lip like a barbed claw,
and you aren’t interested
in the drawing he shows you,
naming it “Shame.”

A sketch of a man,
such large hands over what kind of face.

You have to go, you say so, and sit on the street
that erupts twice a year,
once in white hot cherry blossoms,
once in black branches that streak
in stiff silhouettes – vibrations
made physical in the sky.

At home your father watches the television
muted, saying Who is this, and What
are these fellows doing
, and every few minutes
he hears a sound that might be the ice box
spawning, and on double canes he
walks to the door, like a paper puppet
convulsing in the light.

You are going to stay on this bench a very long time,
watching autumn’s genocide paint salted lines
around the spaces where the leaves have pressed
their damp brown bodies to the ground.

What can they, or anyone hear
on a day like this, but the parade
of plastic soles, like a gloved applause
that resonates behind the bridge
of your nose, as each hand takes great pains
to be the one left clapping?

And how to carve the space around your body
into quiet, and grow a spindle
from your tongue to tighten these sounds
into something as thin and nearly tangible
as reality, or a single word.

When you finally go home, you are going to ask
your father how his day was, and he’ll say The egg
is on top of the egg
but he won’t mean an egg
and he won’t mean an egg.

Responses to Dissertation: Aphasia

1 response

This poem begins (first seven stanzas) in a postmodern musing about the existence of any objective reality. The barista’s mood is imagined by the narrator as disheartened: “he doesn’t believe in reality”; truth seems in the control of others (stanza 3), or it is absent (Who is this, and What are these fellows doing—echoes of DeLillo’s White Noise); the action of autumn is a genocide; and the world is made of “plastic soles” / souls, struggling to hold on to a spiritual connection to life (“as each hand takes great pains / to be the one left clapping).”

A turn occurs in the last two stanzas as the narrator’s voice moves to a place beyond postmodernism to one of connection, the move from life as isolation and the other as chalk that marks the place where we die, to the other that can bring “quiet,” communicate to make words real. This place beyond postmodernism where “other” and “I” are not two disparate entities –do we have a name for it yet? The poet is searching for it: the word isn’t “egg” and it isn’t “egg.”

Aside from “autumn’s genocide paint salted lines,” the poem offers other striking images, those of spring (“white hot cherry blossoms”)and winter (once in black branches that streak / in stiff silhouettes); and the figure of the father staggering on “double canes,” whited out by the flash of the TV: “like a paper puppet / convulsing in the light.”

posted by Sarah Zale      March 5th, 2012 at 8:18 pm

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