Honest Speech

by Erin Schick

The barn owl communicates with mates and offspring using a complex system of hissing, 
screeching, squawking, and facial muscle manipulation 
Survival is dependent on creating a voice so unique it can be recognized by loved ones in an instant

I argue the cause of my stutter is not neurologic
It’s got to be something deeper
Something desperate to be remembered

This is not a speech impediment 
My voice is an instrument, my stutter its greatest symphony 
My speech, composed by god 
I buy three grapefruit and I stutter
I study sociology and I stutter
I like tzatziki and I stutter 
The staccato of repetition is an unpredictable percussion
The struggle for every syllable a reminder I have not always had this voice
This stage, a gift of spotlights

It seems there is a new kind of privilege here 
In being understood the first time
In breath, calm and measured, stripping speech of nuance 
In passing as fluent to spare someone else embarrassment

For too long I have been afraid of my own name 
I have let it sit heavy in my throat 
A tool of betrayal 
I introduce myself and I stutter
I am a poet and I stutter
I call my parents and I stutter
I love you and I stutter
I love myself and I stutter

The stutter is the most honest part of me 
It is the only thing that never lies 
It is how I know I still have a voice
I am still being heard 
I am still here 
When I stutter I am speaking my own language fluently 
When I sound like this I know my loved ones can find me 
This is what I sound like when I speak for myself 
This is what I sound like 
This is what I sound like

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