Thursday, April 18, 2019


Of the sixteen-hundred things that frighten me about my Parkinson's disease diagnosis, the worst is this: I might lose my ability to speak.

Imagine that I'm standing in front of a crowd of listeners, ready to read again my national award-winning poem, "Pricksong," but when I open my mouth, nothing comes out.

"Count out loud when you exercise," says my physical therapist. "Don't shout, just speak up. That will help." So I do. One-and, two-and, all the way to thirty sometimes.

At home I practice talking. Every time I see Ruby, my cat, I speak loudly to her. She seems to like it. So I talk to my plants, the blue jays, then to the refrigerator and the coat closet and my recliner. Now I plan to talk to my computer instead of using my keyboard if I can figure out how to do it.

Today I talked in my car. I spoke (not shouted) to the driver who roared out of line behind me to cut across the gas station and leap in line in front of me. I said to him (it must of been a "him"): "Why you stupid son of a butterfly, that was the dumbest-dimwit thing I've ever seen. No wonder your left fender is completely bashed in."

Now I speak all the time. I read every long column of my New Yorker out loud, struggling to pronounce proper nouns. Everything I think I say out loud, once, twice, sometimes up to thirty.

Hey, you, maybe you'd like to hear me talk, loudly, nonstop, for a couple of hours. 

What? No? 

Just remember, it could be worse. I could open my mouth and nothing would come out. 

Not even my crying.

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