Haiku Stroke


I said “Dark Water”
instead of “English Breakfast.”
I couldn’t name Grace.

I called her “the girl
with the long red hair upstairs.”
We called 9-1-1.

The paramedics,
warm and gentle, guessed my words.
I tried to make sense.

I stayed for three days
in the hospital, my heart
pounding, beat by beat…

WHOOSH! Wild-fresh-crisp air,
flying free to my wheelchair
on Tanya’s blues eyes.

I don’t need to ride
my wheelchair. All that is wrong
is my mixed-up talk.

Who am I, when I
can’t write and read? Anything?
Yes…my soul whispers.

Thirteen years of health
with such long, grim suffering.
And yet, such love-joy-life.


Willy wonky words
Bumble bees wisteria.
Sweet nectars, joyful.

Golden wobbly moon
holds gnarly eucalyptus.

Deep rich roots ground life.


“I’m reading great now!”
“You’re up to third-grade level.”
Ouch. Much more practice.

So much exhaustion.
I nap morning, afternoon,
and still sleep all night.

But in between, such
heaven: birds, penetrating
sun-warm, flowers, spring.

My New Yorker: What
to do with that subscription?
I can’t read it well.

Will my therapist
think I should try to read it?
She might understand.

But Miriam says
I should read Talk of the Town,
the fun short stories.


I worked on word games
for speech therapy: five fruits
per letter. Try “X!!!”

“My brain is worn out
from doing the five-fruit words.”
Miriam gaffaws.

“It’s only one word!
And it includes veggies, too!”
Eggplant saved the day.

Apples, berries, C
for lush Cara-Cara yum.
Dates, helped with a clue.

The clued eggplant. Figs.
Grapefruit. What’s H? Jicama.
(Does Iced Mango count?)

Kale. Limes. Mangos. Nuts.
Oranges. Pineapple. What’s Q?
Raisins. Satsumas.

Turnips. Uva, yes?
Watermelon. Yellow squash.
X and Z elude.

My brain is muddled.
I need to rest, even nap.
Maybe more words then!


When my mind settles
My thoughts enliven, awake.
Again, words begin.

I can’t do two things:
Speak while angry or drinking.
How’s that for karma?

I’m a kerfluffle
when expressing upset thoughts.
My brain is unwired.

I can read some things,
not others: The Atlantic,
not The New Yorker.

It has to do with
all those parenthetical
sections that lose me.

The Atlantic rolls
along smoothly, easily,
and makes me feel smart.

Every day I nap,
leaning in fluffy pillows,
mind loose, floating, free.

Interconnecting Circles

Martina Reaves
Martina is a retired mediator of family and neighbor disputes. She lives in Berkeley with her wife Tanya Starnes, and writes personal essays and flash memoirs. Her memoir, I’m Still Here, was published during covid in April 2020. It chronicles living with her son, Cooper, in their two-mom family and surviving a terminal diagnosis of cancer in 2009. She failed to die on time. Her stroke occurred on May 1, 2021. She’s talking well now. The drawings are called Zentangles, a type of meditative drawing.

#Martina Reaves


  1. CLAUDIA Ann MARSEILLE - August 26, 2021 @ 4:03 pm

    So wonderful Martina, I am impressed

  2. CLAUDIA Ann MARSEILLE - August 26, 2021 @ 4:02 pm

    So wonderful Martina — I am impressed! Claudia

  3. Donna LaFlamme - August 22, 2021 @ 8:14 am

    Martina. I had no idea about your journey with stroke. Your writing says it all. Welcome back to the land of words! These pieces are beautiful and poignant.

  4. Norman Tuck - July 31, 2021 @ 4:45 am

    Thank you, Martina.

  5. Marlene - July 23, 2021 @ 7:14 am

    You have a really inspired heart, mind and soul. Thank you for these…I needed this.

  6. Alice Feller - July 22, 2021 @ 12:42 pm

    Martina, your haikus with zentangles are brilliant and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this piece with all of us. Through it all I hear the same writer’s voice that I know, and am so glad to be reading again.

  7. Barbara Ridley - July 21, 2021 @ 12:10 pm

    I am so glad you are writing haikus about this!! They are wonderful. And so relieved your brain is in slightly less of a kerfuffle

  8. Carl - July 21, 2021 @ 8:29 am

    You are a friend who supports, a writer who inspires. How fortunate are we who know you. Beautifully written.

  9. Sue Granzella - July 20, 2021 @ 6:59 pm

    Martina, I LOVED your haiku (“haikus”?). It’s only the second time I’ve seen haiku used in this way. A friend wrote verse after verse of haiku after her 31-year marriage dissolved, and encapsulating the bits of feeling and insight in the structure of haiku was a huge part of her healing process. As soon as I began reading your writing and realized what I was reading, I devoured it. It’s always been terrifying and fascinating to imagine what it’s like to have a stroke or other condition tangle up the speech process. Your writing was intimate, moving, and inspiring. Absolutely wondrous. Thank you for sharing!! And it’s so good to hear that you’re speaking well now. All the best to you.

  10. Diana Dolezal - July 20, 2021 @ 6:29 pm

    Was so excited to see your name in this issue! I always look forward to your view, your thoughts, your talent. Spilling over, shifting and growing. Keep pushing along. You are full of talent!

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