I open my mouth and shape the words with care:
they have clear, firm edges and crisp endings;
they have an upright, no-nonsense demeanor;
they say what they mean, revealing nothing.
I open my mouth and the words emerge:
avoiding my lips; my tongue shuns them.
My heart, faint engine, fails to recognize them
though speech is a language I’ve almost relearned.
Sometimes I muddle the tenses (was it then? or is it now?)
I haven’t even started on the future:
trying hard to decide, I forget all the words completely
but then, if I shut my mouth, my heart remembers.
Judith Barrington is the author of four poetry collections. She suffers from Charcot Marie Tooth Disease and is still recovering from a subdural hematoma two years ago.