Words. 450 days ago they were my superpower. Until a car crash knocked them just beyond my reach.
I used to read 800 words a minute and remember most of them. Now 8 words a minute is a good brain day. Much faster and they swim off the page.
Background noise, I can’t make them fit together. Reading, writing, speaking, or hearing. The fog rolls in and engulfs them and me with it. I know they are there but just beyond my grasp. Now I live in thesaurus.com and I’m trapped between endless games of charades and catchphrase.
Good Friday has long been a day I take slow to reflect and choose to remember, to re-member. When I was in college years ago, I found an old Franciscan church to go be silent and very out of place at. I learned there can be soul-filling in silence.
My love affair with words got started young. I thought memorizing dictionaries was a game growing up and fell in love with poetry and Shakespeare by the time I was 10. Words held life and death and shaped worlds.
So this Friday came, and I got more than I bargained for. A thought came through the quiet… I wonder if poetry uses a different part of my brain than does prose.
I almost dismissed it. Who asks questions like that anyway?
But swiping through social media, I stumbled on this poem from Katherine Sleadd and then read as much of her blog as my brain would let me beyond it. It felt like fuel finding fire in ember form.
I sat there thinking this is different. OK, I’m just gonna ask. “Hey, Google or Siri or Alexa or whoever is taking requests, do poetry and prose use the same parts of the brain?”
A list of articles filled my screen.
NO. THEY. DO. NOT.
Me, the lover of words and neuroscience, decided to dive deep. After all, words shape worlds… in us and through us. Important stuff, right?
There it was written in front of me. Poetry lights up the brain in ways literal prose, like instruction manuals, never can (so found this study from Exeter explained in greater depth here). Poetry and heating-manual prose act on different parts of the brain, literally. And all the poetry lovers say, “DUH.”
My prose reading/writing is deeply problematic, but maybe the stringing-words-together-in-lyric-form part of my brain would work better, or at least differently. Poetry was always my first love in literature, so much so that in college I majored in its performance. Perhaps, just maybe…
I nabbed the nearest pen and scribbled a word and then another and then a line and then a little more. I had to stop for breaks and for Google to find the words I lost, but there were words. Like old friends appearing in the distance if still wrapped in fog.
I stopped and read the lines out loud. They made sense. In fact, they were better than a good bit of the poetry I had written years before any of this was even an inkling. I know poetry and poetic prose are not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, I have to believe writing in this style again holds keys to recovering parts of myself that I lost.
So I write. And I share, knowing me picking up my pen is me showing up vulnerable and being brave with my life post-traumatic brain injury (TBI).
(If I needed an extra nudge, this article about how to write a book with a TBI confirmed almost everything I am daring to hope for.)
For those of you who also love words, I hope what gets shared in this space (the Journaled category of Story Matters under the literary author version of my name, D.M. Perry) will ignite and inspire you to find your own. (Oh, I might have just made up the author D.M. Perry version of my name up because sometimes new seasons need naming in new ways. And it sounds so literary author-ish. Apparently, I make up words now too.)
my story is a thing with edges.
it isn’t nice, neatly strung,
pristine prose on a page.
no. it’s filled with grit and forged in flame,
but it’s mine: mine to own,
mine to brave.
i’m a heptagon
with points shaved
poised to fit into some circular shape
that was never mine to fill.
metal crunched and
words got knocked out of me…
brain bumped and bruised,
the words fell out one ear and
i’m looking for them still.
maybe, just maybe
the ones i find will be
better than the ones i lost.
maybe the ones that fell out
are ones i no longer need:
jargon and streams long gone dry
perhaps the words i’m looking for
are found still inside,
not in a bruised brain,
but a heart broken wide