The Stutter

We speak too fast.
The child sits at our table, waiting
his turn. The clock
points a sharp finger. The daily
soup steams,

too hot to eat. Between
words the child thrashes/-/-/--
Our patience

takes a deep breath.

That high voice -- all clumsy fingers --
can't untie
the shoelace fast enough. The master
of the house
is counting. The hurt
voice circles
over and over, blunt needle picking
at an old
blocked groove.

Years ago in a high chair
he drummed wet fists, his face
a knot: Give me
. The fury
beat in his throat. Mother and father,
we put words in his mouth, we

speak harder, faster, we give him
a life to chew on.

by Chana Bloch

added December 11, 1996