Laurie Klein


Lock that tongue to the roof

of your mouth, the therapist says,

eyeing the trach

at the base of her throat. (Memory

pulses in her, replaying a lover

eyeing her neckline.) Her gaze

lasers the expert's ear lobe,

marking a place for a hammered

gold stud, a cross, or a fish—

Be amphibian: breathe, he says,

slow, through the stoma. Good,

he says. Good. (Like gills, pumping,

pumping away as the barbed

hook is withdrawn, the catch

thrown back . . . Don't

go there.) Force air up your gullet.

She gulps, then finesses

a belch, and he cries, Yes!

Now shape the noise. She tries, over

and over, a first-time lover,

kissing sounds old as earth, bracing

as rain, words she'd thought forever

lost, croaking: "Thank you," tongue,

teeth, palate, lips.