Later, I Learned to Speak Without a Tongue
But first I wrote backwards.
First I learned to breathe without my throat.
Once, my teeth chattered alphabets and people sat in rows
to hear me speak.
Later I wrote on paper and the paper cut itself to emptiness.
Later I sat alone in the pew.
Once I chanted into the empty nests of finches.
Once a cathedral grew in the meadow,
crowns of flowers on the skulls of deer.
Before that I had children.
After that, everything I loved became a hole.
I lay down and shouted names into the dirt.
After that, eyes grew upon my heart and all those eyes
grew hearts and all those hearts eyes and hearts and eyes
were trapped inside me in the dark. Later the children will
come back and we'll swim moonlit in the river.
Later, an emptiness will swallow me and whole.
After that I will turn to grass.
— Lisa Allen Ortiz
I love this poem. The surreal imagery ("my teeth chattered alphabets", "skulls
of deer") contrasts with her plain, almost boring, sentence structure (First
this. Then that. Once this). She also speaks with absolute certainty,
describing only what did or will happen. The resulting poem sounds like a
recipe or a witness statement, but what is she recounting?