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  • Speech Delay, and: The Bestiary Makers
  • David Macey (bio)

Speech Delay

I. Mute Daughter with Talking Toy

She smacks her alphabet wheel into life. It sings, The animals have something to say. Roar goes the lion. Meow the kittycat. She squeals, drawn to this most voluble of toys, her abecedarian bestiary of noise. The animals have something to say. They do: the baited bear roars; the hounds bay for blood. Over and over it chants to her the cant of beasts as it spins in rings. All day: The animals have something to say.

II. Speech Delay

Our daughter doesn’t speak. We worry. Week by week we wait for words, try to teach her how to pin the world with air —that marvelous conjuring trick— and the reverse: leach meaning out of it. But nothing sticks. We speak. She rocks. She stares.

I form the magic sounds: in rounds and rings I chant to her the whole world’s resounding formula of Let there be: Light and Tree and Sand. And, lo, little child, there is. [End Page 143] She checks her tongue and looks away, or farther into herself, her face a book where we may read nothing we understand.

III. Speech Therapy

“We overtalk,” one therapist says, meaning parents, “the most common mistake.” Our quiet home’s a riotous din to the child who must stalk and snare each parrot, singly, from the song-maddened air, outfox each well-schooled, flickering trout and tear it from the stream. I talk too much. Too mush. Must cool my mouth, watch and wait. We hold one long watch over our verbal heir apparent.

We have lingered too long in the hubbub of good sense, taken too little care of silence, we forgot to grant the green cryptanalyst some breathing room, space to parse our code of anxious mumblish, time to grasp the plot of our humble household farce: Chatterbox, Blabbermouth, and Mum’s-the-Word— a comedy of unheard errors.

Though I am unnerved by the thought I let it be my prayer: let silence teach the words that we cannot. [End Page 144]

IV. Joke

“Soon you’ll long for these days,” meaning our daughter’s silence, a neighbor jokes over his girl’s unsparing monologue of preschool, park trips, science projects gone awry, and violent puppet plays. I laugh, or try to, a frog catching in my throat, while her fluent speech rolls over us. [End Page 145]

The Bestiary Makers

They wrote their tongue in beasts: icon of alligator, anhinga, albatross —to scan their roll call’s start—and with no loss of clarity for all that musk and marrow. For recall, your Holy Father, a hen, considers the least of them: his eye is on the subtle sparrow that negates a whole clause of claw and fin; his eye is on the dead sow’s farrow of doomed, interrogating piglets, whose keen he countenances but never answers.

They wrote in God’s own code, these bestiarians, in bone, tendon, muscle, skin, in quill and sheen and the brindled splatter of oakum ink that never dappled hide at chance, that always hid a holy patter. [End Page 146]

David Macey

david macey’s translations and original works appear in AGNI, the Literary Review, Third Coast, and online at Mayday Magazine. He is writing a book on the early history of fake news.



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pp. 143-146
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