STUTTERING, Cinthia Ritchie

by Cinthia Ritchie

You know about silence, not the silence
of shaded fields but of nights
where the wind forgets to move
and the flat, salted weight
of your own stupid tongue.
You don't speak unless you have to,
your throat a stingy lump
that refuses to give up words.
The heat of your broken speech
is so great you often escape
to the bathroom,
press your face against cool tiles,
imagining rain or snow or the cold,
clear blast of a freezer door opening.

At a dinner party,
you rub butter over your lips,
press your elbows against
the polished table, smile
at the man with the fraying
cuffs and long, dark fingers until
his body falls in step with yours
and you lead him home, your hands sliding
beneath his shirt, each touch a vowel,
a syllable, a long, teasing hyphen.
There's so much you want to say
you can't keep your tongue away
from his skin: even your saliva
drips words across his chest.

This man talks a lot, whispering
and asking, thanking and demanding,
the moist hum of letters slipping so effortlessly
from his lips that you can't help
biting down, hard, on his neck,
your throat washed with the warm,
slippery taste of his fluent blood.

When he finally leaves you dance
the cat across the room until your teeth ache.
You haven't spoken a word all night
and your voice presses your throat
like newly-splintered wood.
You open your mouth: yell, scream, shout,
your words breaking and snapping
with the useless urgency of damp ash.
Cinthia Ritchie writes and runs mountains in Anchorage, Alaska. Find her work at Sport Literate, Best American Sports Writing 2013, Evening Street Review, Water-Stone Review, Under the Sun, Cactus Heart Press, Daminfo Press, The Boiler Journal, 101 Words and other literary magazines and small presses. Her first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, was released from Hachette Book Group.

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