Questions for the Neurologist

For Richard

If a seizure stops neurons
from communicating,

where should they go afterwards
to get reacquainted?

When my life takes a different
direction, how will I find true north?

How long can I dance in the rain
without slipping?

If a rooster crows in the city,
is it warning or delight?

When a man loses his words in the forest,
what songs will the mushrooms sing?

Is warm milk a reasonable solution
when brain cells are overexcited?

Once I go to sleep, which dreams
can really be trusted?

If the cat does not recognize me,
how will I know I still exist?

In seventy years of living, have I not
earned a quiet mind?

If I start speaking in tongues
will anyone believe me?


Debbie Hall is a psychologist and writer whose poetry has been published in the San Diego Poetry Annual, Writer’s Resist, Serving House Journal, Sixfold, Poets Reading the News, Poetry24, Bird’s Thumb, Califragile, Gyroscope Review, Hawaii Pacific Review and elsewhere. Her essays have appeared on NPR’s This I Believe series and in USD Magazine and the San Diego Union Tribune. She is the author of the poetry collection What Light I Have (2018, Main Street Rag Books) and an award-winning chapbook, Falling into the River (2020, The Poetry Box).

About the Poem

“Questions for the Neurologist was inspired by a close friend’s experience with a later-in-life diagnosis of seizure disorder–thankfully now well controlled with medication. The poem’s form is modeled closely after Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions, as my friend’s real-life experience with seizures contained many unanswerable questions, particularly with regard to etiology and predictions of future impact.”

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1 thought on “Questions for the Neurologist”

  1. I love this poem. So many fine and wonderous magical realism questions that one might need/want to ask after having a seizure, or about the disorder. I love it. the last lines are fantastic.

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