Monday, February 13, 2023

Finding Voice

Here's my script, but watch the video first. It sets up the monologue. People attending my performance of this piece will see the video before I begin delivering my text.

 I know that it’s perverse, to speak in verse—

An elder fella, a cappella, kind’a rappin,’

finding rhythm while he’s tappin’

with is fingers on his thigh.

Will you be clappin’ when I stop?

Or maybe crapin’, or just laughin’?

Well …  if I drive you to hysteria, 

there’s staff her to take care-a-ya,

as I share with you this aria

about why I speak in rhyme.


I worked in the theatre, and failed at acting,

but I was good at audience attracting,

by being me on stage, and telling stories,

truths and allegories.

Making people laugh and cry,

making my friends wonder why,

a man so shy

liked oratory.

And then…

Well… and then…


On April ninth 2-0-1-6, the day that dawned was grey.

But I was free, a retiree, I had the entire day to play.

Feeling good, I washed and dressed, 

I could hardly wait to eat.

But a wagging tail, and imploring eyes,

said doggie wants a treat.

And then, I know, she’ll want a walk.

But duty calls, so I try to talk….

to explain to her why breakfast’s late,

but my mouth, and tongue and my lips conflate

to terminate, to strangulate, to violate

my voice.

I start to shake…  and then I fall,

I thrash and smash and after all

the jerks and twitches stop,

I wonder. Is this a joke? 

Have I had a stroke?

I can’t say words … my arms won’t work.

I try to stand but go berserk. 

I fall and flail; I shake and pant.

I want to phone for help, but can’t

So, out the door and down the hall,

stoned on rushing cortisol,

across the street to see St. Paul. 

I seize again, they call a doc,

I mime to him that I can’t talk—

not only that, that I can’t walk.


He takes a scan of my brain, but it doesn’t explain

why this collapse so profane,

that I can’t sustain,

has happened.

Then I seize again, and he must admit,

as I twitch and flail through another fit,

that he hasn’t a clue

about what to do.

And I wonder,

will I ever speak again?


I surrender all my wherewithal,

strapped on a gurney in the hall.

Cold corridor in old St. Paul.

And I feel trapped, and isolated,

and he feels lost, and obligated

to explain, and then to treat,

what has him feeling such defeat.

And then suddenly, a decision,

on a VGH admission,

where they have a good clinician,

who can lead the inquisition

as to why there’s been attrition 

in my voice.


She is gentle.

I’m temperamental,

because the title and position

of this consulting new physician

frightens me. Her degree’s in

psychiatry … What? For me?

This can’t be right. For me?

This just cannot cannot be! 

What will people say?

Can’t this please, please,

 just go away?


She says my limbic system’s broken,

and that’s why I haven’t spoken.

The amygdala inside my head

has changed happiness to dread.

The amygdala? 

What, the fuck, is that?


It’s my fear thermostat, she says, with nonchalance,

it controls your flight or fight response.

Think of this as a renaissance, she says,

and not a nervous breakdown.

I’ve got a complex malady, she says,

a form of high anxiety. She says

I’ve got P-T-S-D, 

but that doesn’t sound like me.

It sounds like soldiers on TV.

(Pause.) Me?

The chicken sissy?

The anti-alpha male who’s almost prissy?



And not just PTSD, she says,

I’ve also got FND. 

FND?  What’s that?

A neurological condition, she says,

that accounts for my transition

from good health to inhibition 

of my nervous system.

It’s FND,

That makes me seize, she says,

that brings me to my knees.

It’s why my arms and legs are weak;

it’s why I can hardly ever speak …. Well fluently, anyway

Things’ll be different, she says, you wait,

this isn’t a checkmate.

She says that I’ll adapt.

Easy for her to say, 

‘Cause I feel trapped

behind a wall of silence—


And there’s no science, she says,

we haven’t any cure.

So, there’ll be no resolution, 

and the only possible solution 

that will lead to elocution

is to make a resolution 

to adjust. Develop trust,

it’s a must, she says.

As I sigh, and wonder why

this is happening to me.


 But at least it isn’t cancer.

And at least I’ve got an answer.

She says pills and psychotherapy

will help me … well … be a different me.

She blames the trauma of my past. 

She says with abuse, the die is cast;

the memories I hid, inside,

could not, would not, be denied


In my chest, I feel tight,

‘cause I know that she is right.

To my soul, she’s brought some light,

but her words fill me with fright.

Even though they end the fight

that’s burned for years within me.


She says it lasts forever,

but with time, that it gets better. 

I’m to commit to co-existence,

choose acceptance, not resistance.

And she says she’ll be my guide,

she’ll be forever by my side.

I love that word, “forever.”

Her help will make me better. 

My secrets haven’t shocked her;

I’m in love with my new doctor.


I’m discharged awash in symptoms,

prescriptions and descriptions

of probabilities, and of options,

possibilities, and cautions.

And, of course, talking with my doc—

walking the walk,and  talking the talk.

I adore her. She makes me think

realize, and then embrace,

all the things that once, I couldn’t face.

She helps me deal with my stutter;

she keeps me calm, and not aflutter.

Sometimes I speak as smooth as butter.

And she never psycho-speaks.

I see her every week.

Talk therapy

for someone who can’t speak.

Go figure.

(Shrugs shoulders.)



My friends, well they’re all mystified

to hear how bad my tongue is tied.

They asked me how it came to be

I have so much high anxiety.

But I don’t like being asked

to talk about my past.

It’s not for gossip, I decide,

but …  then again, I’ve got symptoms I can’t hide.

And so, for friends I trust, I must confide 

The basics…

That how my world was changed the day

that mother dear gave me away 

to a church, with nuns who say 

Hail Mary is my mother.

And then suddenly I’ve another.

Connie is my mother number two

Who did things moms should never ever do

And do and do and do.

Like she said, the die was cast,

I have scars from trauma past,

impossible to sustain

A constant source of pain.


What can I say?


These letters mean absolutely nothing to me.

All the psycho and medical jargon

only causes me to get a hard on

for escape. Drugs or liquor

will do—whatever’s quicker.

I retreat to semi-isolation,

but at least there’s compensation.

There are times when I can speak,

when anxiety is weak.

Otherwise, it’s notes and mime.

I use them nearly all the time.

And oh yea… I’ve got a blog

where I can log the ins and outs every day,

and my friends can leave a brick or a bouquet.

The greatest compensation, though,

is when, from home, I have to go

to stores or to a meeting,

and have to talk or offer greeting,

but I just block, and nothing comes,

or comes in sputters.

And strangers hear my dreadful stutter.

But all the clerks, they always say,

“Take your time, I’ve got all day.

We aren’t rushed, your needs are mine;

I’m here for you. Just take your time.”

And they touch me, right up here, 

and I relax. They make it clear

that all around me, all I see,

are people blessed with empathy. 

They fill my soul with ecstasy.

They’ve changed my world—and me.

It’s a nicer place, than it used to be

when I could speak.

‘Cause now that I’m weak,

they are kind. They give the gift

of peace of mind.


Once I had a best friend who suddenly went blind,

and in defiance of his malady, he found himself inclined

to do the things that sighted people do; to live his life unbarred.

To prove that he was living full. I was his bodyguard.

He bought paintings sold at auction, and taught himself to ski,

And so, after years of life without a voice, 

I thought of him … and the degree

to which he’d risen over loss, and so I resolved to do

something brave to honour him. 

That’s why I’m here … in front of you,

using rhyme and rhythm to help you see

past my disability, 

and seeing all of me.


Using rhyme and rhythm’s great;

I’ll always to use it to talk straight.

I can make a speech this way, to talk true,

but on the street, it just won’t do.

So, when I’m with my friends’

and want my turn to speak,

I talk, warts and all, and there’s

never a critique.

My natural voice,

Is my first choice.

And so, in the end, 

there’s just one voice that I hold dear.

It’s the only voice I ever want to hear.

And though it can be a bit of a mess, I simply can’t resist,

the only voice, for me, that’s true to being Chris.

Sometimes it breaks, sometimes disappears, 

sometimes it fills my life with social fears.

And sometimes, like now, I can be a balladeer 

And so, if you should see me on the street,

There’s just one voice, for me, 

to use if we should meet.

Say hi, and I’ll reply

in my real voice, warts and all.

The voice I love, 

and fits just like a glove

of perfect size. 

A voice I idolize,

and use almost every time,

except when I am having fun,

with rhythm and with rhyme.

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