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September 25, 1996

The Cigarette Papers

JAMA. 1996;276(12):997-998. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540120075039

Aphasia  When I sat in your class, you paced, tapped chalk and slate, but gave only eyebrow clues that you were seeding your answers with irony.You analyzed each of our questions and tipped the wavering balance. And all the while you juggled adjectives or euphonious phrases with a dexterity mastered over decades.But all this stopped in the abbreviated seconds that a fleck of fibrin and fat wriggled free— a brief ride on arterial eddies— to wedge in your left middle cerebral branch.And now only eyes shout your struggle— not for an adjective not even for a phrase— but for a verb or noun to break the sinister silence.—Jay LivesonReprinted by permission from To Slay the Dragon: Poems by Jay Liveson, 78 pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-7734-2676-0, Lewiston, NY, Mellen Poetry Press, 1996. The book is a collection of new and reprinted work on medical and