It wasn’t only the unpredictable falling, leaning

too far to one side, or starting to straddle


a slope in my own back yard the way I’d always done,


to simply pull weeds. And it wasn’t only my thighs

bit by bit growing so weak that when—


just steps from my own front door—I bent to gather


bright red Sweet Gum leaves and fell, I had to crawl

to the tree’s slender trunk, hand


over hand, I had to pull myself up. No, the country


my head was in, the one in which I was born

was suddenly no longer home. Nonchalance,


the language I spoke there. What were priorities?


Household bills piled up, unopened. And when a dear

friend’s final breath chugged ever closer?


What difference would my presence have made?


To ask me why my words careened all over

every conversation, bounced off bewildered ears


like billiard balls in search of a pocket, would have been

to send me looking in darkness for a switch I didn’t


care enough to find. Oh, patient well-wishers, and you


who fell away, how much store we put in logic,

in stringing the very right words in the very right order,


in being able to open a simple post and circle necklace clasp.


But when the seat of Reason has been invaded, taken

hostage by a foreign power?


Where do we stand?


What should have been New York Finger Lakes between

my cranial lobes, were craters of the moon, fluid-filled.


What chance had Free Will against that small, benign onion


my surgeon, one bright morning, peeled, layer by layer, away

from the tip of my spinal cord, under the window


he’d cut in my skull, and removed, and later screwed back in?


Twelve years, he said, maybe

fifteen, that silent blockade had been snarling


traffic at Grand Central Station of Mind and Motion.


Or are these words

too nonchalant, still? Oh,


gentle readers, whose language, whose customs


I’m still relearning,

may you make of this tale a window


into the strangeness of countless others among us


who are not at home among us, for reasons beyond

their own control, for whom rescue may not ever come.


May you be kind. They do not will it so.