Speak! A Brief Encounter

By Julia Travers

After spending so much time alone,
when she met someone on the street,
she wondered
what sounds would emerge from her mouth.
None at all?
Or, the dusty sigh of an ancient wooden jewelry box
pried open in the attic?
A gargle or a glottal stop,
a hacking rush of phlegm
or senseless giggle?
Or perhaps, the coo of a pigeon or snort of a warthog?
The ssssssssss of a snake
a discordant whistle
or a phrase of the invented gibberish
she often mused in?
Would her voice be true?
Would it sound childish and small,
broken and querulous —
would her words be inconsequential, short?
Would she barter away pieces of her mellow solitude,
break the surface of the lake
where she walked and floated,
lie, rush to please,
or cut with desperate malice?

Luckily, it’s a brief sidewalk conversation
with a friendly, bright-eyed face,
not wholly unfamiliar
her tongue undulates, rushes,
then lies still.
Her mouth smiles with enthrallment
her cheeks redden,
her ears peak with rolling language.
The words rise then are gone
like each breath,
here, gone, again, again,

The cement around her limbs liquefies a little
the squeeze in her chest tightens, loosens,
pulses with contact, with separation
as she rotates back toward her cove,
a compass needle,
sighing deeply, tired,
tussled into the day
like a pile of children’s wooden blocks
scattered happily on the carpet,
a contented tangle of warm, fresh laundry.

Julia Travers is a writer and artist in Virginia, U.S.A. Find her works with Fish Publishing, Rattapallax, On Being, The Mindfulness Bell and others. juliatravers.journoportfolio.com

Thoughts: Pandemics and lockdowns amplify the intensity of even the smallest interpersonal exchanges. 

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