by Laurie Byro

After Archibald MacLeish

And, as it happens, the mute child is not
rebellious nor stupid, and of course it is winter.
Autumn has rollicked its leaves tripped in dull
joy all over itself. Wait for the power to know:
sound out these garbled messages, the patois,
the bird sounds that unleashed his rage against
the hunched talkers, the gnarled walkers who should
have stayed silent. The hoe as it turned over each writhing
clump of philosopher, the tines of each rake as it breaks
apart the grass. How long does it last? The astonished
bell when it breaks apart its clapper. How many months
can he swallow and burp this river of vowels into the air?
He sucks each stoned consonant, sun-warm into his
maw of nest like the birch branches he seeks in winter.
His tongue is a blood-thick worm trying to bust into
the ragged bone of molar. How he basks under such wild
utterances. He knew, they all did, that this belching
of sound would please them. And they would never think
of each other the same way. Just as we had always known,
he is a choice. He wasn’t able to waste breath the way
the others above him had, the green puffs of leaves
as they filter the sun. He watches a skylark over head
and practices out loud, because he wants to: “this is speech.”
The silent shadow as their wings cross his feet—

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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