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July 2014, vol 10, no 2

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Jonathan McKeown


. . . and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
                              Genesis 2:19

Nominal aphasia is what I heard a retired academic psychologist call it once. He was describing the symptoms of his own early onset dementia. But in my father’s case it was not a capacity he lost so much as one he never gained. Now that we are old enough we tease him about his “thing language." But back then we had to compensate for it. “Can one of you kids get me that thing I put on the side of the . . . whatsitcalled . . . the flat thing,” he would call out from one awkward situation or another he may have been working in. “Which thing?” I would ask, really not having a clue what thing he had in mind. “You know the thing I mean,” he would bark back as if I were being smart with him. And so I would go searching in a world of nameless things.

evening train
waking with a strange word
on my lips