Corey Van Landingham, Aphasia

For Mike

“It’s so beautiful,” you told us
when you could talk again. Pure
sound. Balloon-like, the middle rising.
Name, nearly, of some precocious girl
in Eugene, or mute Greek goddess.
Its origins, though, aren’t all disorder—
something of the ineffable, what slips
the tongue in wonder. That which can’t
be said. I had been searching
for a happier way to write of love.
Impossible! All happy families…
All happy poems. “Happy”
isn’t what anyone would call you, Mike,
except maybe as an office joke.
I know, now, you like to watch others
approach it. At the Sidney Dairy Barn,
the late-summer cornfields inescapable,
you wanted us so badly to be
content with our chosen fruit flavors.
The lemon some bright home.
Driving us the long way back, past
the farm, past the lone, spotted horse,
past your late wife’s favorite church,
you said you could have watched her pray
inside forever. I have finally come to see
how I have relied all my life on the fictions
of long Russian novels and insufferable
grainy films for models of pairing.
That I desired extensive evening speeches
affirming a great beauty I hadn’t yet
lost, somber soliloquies of worship,
words as proof. Yesterday I sensed
the room shift. Had the streetlamps
flickered on? Another lightning bug
caught in our antique lamp? No,
Chris was looking at me, from
across the room, while I read. “What?”
I asked. What was it? He shook
his head, smiled. I couldn’t say.