Autumn by Phyllis Koppel
Words Fail Me
Snow is falling in my brain, gentle,
relentless. It starts with a small silence,
in the easy rhythm of talk. A familiar word fails
Bewildered by the changing landscape,
beginning to be frightened, I push on,
awkwardly: hard to keep up
appearances. Listeners glance away, pretend
not to notice, or supply quick replacements, share
their own stories of missing nouns. Cold comfort
to think this a preparation for death,
a gradual letting go of words, mind,
their interplay, once so full of colour,
like those trees in fall, leaves
red, red-gold — what are they called? —
I used to know the Latin name —
now smothered in blank white.
Surely I am not so far from home, have known
these woods since childhood, found
gifts of chanterelles, black trumpets — ah!
I think I recognize a known thing, plunge
grateful hands into a drift.
“Words Fail Me” read by Janet Barkhouse