To sound

In exchange for music, a grammar
lesson: because the piano teacher
did not speak English.

Whole note and half. And how many
violets stoppered in a bottle?
Between things is a rest or a thin

slice of toast on a tray
when words become impossible.
You want to sing? Shape your mouth

as if to tell the river it can be
fire or a nest or the letters of your name
building a bridge in a forgotten language.

You want to speak? Turn the bell upside down
and fill it with rain water. Drink in
the tongue swinging madly in that empty house.


  1. You’re the second one to respond to this poem today – I got an email from someone saying that the poem moved him to tears.


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