The Poet – Summer 2
Helena stands at the podium surveying her audience, the gold medallion weighing heavily around her neck. Simon and Kiki applaud like children on the edge of their chairs in the front row. Halfway back, Carolyn Janus sits next to that student whose name she will never recall.
Helena has been avoiding the student’s emails and voicemails. The student asks the same question in every message. “What if I did deep and what I pull up repels people, or even worse, bores them?”
“Does she think I’m God?” Helena complained to Simon.
“Yes, love. She thinks you’re God. And she aspires to be you one day. Don’t you think she deserves a response?”
Last week, Helena relented and forwarded the student an email invitation to this event.
“Thank you. Thank you,” Helena says, then pauses. She pulls a paper from her pocket, unfolds it and irons it flat with her palm. She reads her own words that Simon has transcribed in large, careful letters.
People love. People hmmmhmmm (she taps her head with her index finger).
Primary. Progressive. Aphasia.
Words pffffhhhh (She makes a flicking motion from her forehead with her wrists and hands. Watches the words float away like balloons into the sky).
Sentences pfffhhhhh (She makes the motion again).
Who? (She points to herself).
Who? (She searches the room as if the answer may be hidden in the eyes of the audience.)
No poems. (Helena growls and swipes her fists like a starved lion. Her chest deflates. With eyes closed she inhales all the way to the tips of her toes. She opens her eyes, letting them fill with terror. Her shrieks, long and mournful, break like a tsunami through the disbelieving faces).
Courage! (She tosses her long hair, feels it shake down her back. Puffs out her chest.)
The room echoes with a heavy silence. Heads turn seeking answers. Simon and Kiki jump to their feet, hooting and clapping. From the middle of the crowd, Carolyn nods and stands to applaud. Then the sobbing student. One by one the rest of the audience erupts in cheers.
About the Author
Gretchen Gossett a practicing speech language pathologist. Gretchen has taken writing courses at Gotham Writers, including Intro to Fiction, Plot, Character, and Publication. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.