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Chris Woods, GP.

The doctor shines a light into eyes and skull.

Has she found me in there?

“Show me your teeth, please” I manage half a smile.

I’m imprisoned in myself, cannot break free.

Where has my other half gone? This half

stays behind. Do we have to separate?

We cared a lot for each other not so long ago.

I have to talk to you, have to make a date.

I have lost control of my lips and my tongue.

They work separately, will not cooperate.

I cannot speak the same language anymore.

I know what to say but cannot translate.

A lovely physio moves me every day with skill

and compassion. I try to compliment her,

but sing instead and swear. We laugh together

at the earthiness, find some iron at my centre.


In this poem I try and imagine what it would be like to have had a stroke. Suffering a hemiparesis, language and speech difficulties, and emotional lability. I would feel desperate, bewildered, questioning, trying to understand what had happened to me. All this incapacity but still retaining my ability to think, not ‘locked in’ but having almost no means of communicating. Such a frightening situation. The care of the staff looking after me, so important. We were finally able to share a humorous incident and spontaneously laugh together. I was human after all. There was still some strength there, some iron at my core. I could survive this catastrophe.

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