Friday, December 26

On Speech

My father was a man of few words. When alive he had little to say, and after his death he said even less. He communicated with us, those of us who were still around to hear him, in looks and grunts and gestures. Near the end of his life he fell ill, sank into a coma that went on for weeks and weeks, and then for months and months. No looks, no grunts, no gestures. We hired someone to care for him. She was a retired nurse who might also have been someone’s nanny. She loved the old man, she said. And she felt that, in some way, she communicated with him, and he with her. But no, we tried to teach him the eyelid trick—you know, one blink for yes, two blinks for no. His eyes, though, remained closed. For us, no blinks at all from him. Then, one day, he surprised us all by waking up. He opened his eyes one morning when we all, except for the nurse, happened to be there in his room. I can’t remember why, but there we were, the four of us—my sister, my two brothers—all there in his room, as though summoned. “Look there! His eyes are open,” one of us said. And the rest of us looked, and they were. His eyes strained to focus at first and then looked around the room, taking in each of us in turn. And then, his mouth opened and much to our surprise the first words to come out were in Spanish. “¿QuĂ© pasa?” he said. I think we all shrugged, as though nothing at all were going on. As far as we knew, father had never uttered a word in Spanish before. And so he died. Silent again, and forever.



Richard said...


This is good - interesting - a bit Kafakaesque or like Cortazar's vignettes...

Were you the bloke who got off side with Silliman and the poetics people?

I abused someone on there (a long time ago when I thought Bush was going to invade Iran) and cant get back on - not that I have time for it...

I look at Silliman's Blog from time to time.

He is interesting but a bit intense...

Cheers, Richard

Halvard Johnson said...

Thanks for the comment, Richard, but, no, you might be thinking of another Johnson, maybe the Kent one.


Richard said...


Yes - it was Kent - I don't know why he was "off-side" - but in any case I have seen your name also.

I was interested in your "Nanosecond project" etc

I recall reading your thing about the piano before an it is very good.

I also liked that long list of things you do...the serio-comic nature of it. Some great lines in it also.

Hope all is well

I will drop in from time to time.

Cheers, Richard