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Synaptic Space

issue 38 2020 Prize Winners

Julie Dunlop

What happens in that leap,
that in-between, that cleft?

Gash in the head from sudden impact—
you mention only your sore ankle and eye

Hang-time between one neuron
downloading its message to the next

Shock of TBI brilliantly protecting
your mind from itself

Neurotransmitters moving swiftly—
the original Wi-Fi

Gaps between your audio messages widen—
Orbital fracture, abscess, craniotomy

“syn” (together) + “haptein” (to clasp)
Through the synapse of wordlessness, we clasp

First photos of your head bandaged post-surgery
texted across the synapse of eight-hundred miles

Each axon terminal conducting
electrical signals like a maestro traffic controller

A month of intravenous antibiotics
multiple times a day and no visitors

In the language of nanometers,
trillions of tiny chemical exchanges

Hard to focus on screens, on anything
as the brain begins knitting itself back together

Neurons and glia working overtime,
satellite cells repairing and regenerating

Watching the slow resurrection from afar
in daily video and audio clips

Circuitry rewiring, regenerating
new pathways like anastomoses

Hearing—piecemeal—the details
of the impact, the ambulance, the accident

Yet another imaging scan—
MRI revealing a meningioma

In the synapses of silence, the mind
wanders, wonders—

Neuro-ophthalmologist says you are
a walking, talking miracle 

Slow, gradual return over months to basics:
driving, getting groceries, the kids’ school events

Neurons firing hundreds of times
per second; miracle of myelination

Follow-up MRI in five months;
synapse of the unknown

Rain falling, a rare gift
reminding you of home

In the space between now and then
and not yet, we breathe.