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Poetry and Medicine
June 14, 2000

Conjunctions of Aphasia

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;283(22):2905. doi:10.1001/jama.283.22.2905

Repeat this phrase after me:
no ifs, ands, or buts—if you can't,
I know a connection's dead
between your thought
and tongue. If you can't
thump your fist or scratch
a fine line that shouts
DO NOT CROSS! and your brow
buts against plaster if you try
to pick your way through a sentence:
you've had a stroke or a crash
we call "an event." You're marooned
on that tiny asteroid named Ida,
wavering around the sun,
surface spongy as a brain
raped by virus or shock, looped
in a circle of strange small words.
Ida has its own moon, Dactyl,
the finger that wobbles and points
past its own orbit, the way
your index shakes its path
beyond the tip of your nose,
ignoring ands or buts as you reach
for a few remaining ifs.

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