Let me tell you this once
(I will not be able to say it again):
I have lost the meaning of words.
Heavy, they ripped away from the sounds,
fell into cracked ground. For weeks
I scratched but what I dug up was
bicycle spokes, black melon rinds,
a smashed doll face--it was not meaning.
I don't know what I am saying.

I exaggerate. Not everything is gone.
I still know perfectly what sugar means,
and pine needle. Laughter is more
of a problem. And yellow often slides,
a plate of butter in the sun.
The meaning of flower has gone entirely;
so has the meaning of love. Now it is safe
to say: I love you. Now it is true.

This poem is reprinted with the permission of Confluence Press from In All the Rooms of the Yellow House. Copyright © 1984 by Nancy Mairs. All rights reserved.