My therapist’s office A/C taunts
me with its fluent hum as she taps the
sentence again with her pencil, Let’s go
fishing under Saturday star light. She tells
me to put the sentence in my mouth,
all in one breath, to feel letters swim
through my trachea. A fishing f wiggles
loose from my teeth, its gills rough on my lips
as it flutters open and shut, open and shut,
in this aerated space between voice and silence,
my breath too shallow to cast the whole word.
The vent cuts off with a pronounced clack.
I close my mouth, breathe through my nose,
listening to air whistle into my airway.
The countdown for my fifteenth start has begun.
My therapist taps the sentence again,
her pencil popping paper, over and over,
Let’s go f— f—, I start, gills struggling
to breathe, and I know this, this is the only
fluency for me, suffocating language in starting,
in stopping, in starting. In stopping.
TROY VARVEL is an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The Cape Rock: Poetry, Driftwood Press, and That Literary Review, among other journals.