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Unable to Speak
    —for Eloise Klein Healy
by Erika Ayón

I often have the same dream, where I am unable
to speak, my mind becomes a swirl, a kaleidoscope
focusing in and out.

It wasn't a dream for you, it really happened to you.
The day after the reading at the Los Angeles Central
Library, where you read from a powder-blue book,
you were on the phone with a friend, she couldn't
understand you, thought it was a game.

What came after were the visits to hospitals, doctors'
appointments, where they mapped your brain
and found vessels had burst like stars in certain parts.
It was aphasia caused by encephalitis. Your language,
erased so easily as if it were writing on a chalkboard.

I wished I had known. I would have memorized your
poems. Called you every day, left them as messages
on your answering machine.

Sang and danced with you to The Beatles. Written
flash cards. Been the one to place Post-Its around your
home to help you remember that an oven was an OVEN,
a couch was a COUCH, a pen was a PEN, your eyes
were your EYES, your words were your WORDS.

Gone to Echo Park, released paper doves made
from your poems into the water, to untrap them
for the time being. Returned to Sappho's Island,
traced your poems on the sand until you
were able to write.

All this in an attempt to bring words back to you,
so you could become a poet once again.


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