“Thhhat was great”

My Stutter Speaks, Pt. 6

So much order you’ve imposed: perfectly-folded middle-school textbook covers, travel ensembles planned and packed by day, scheduled playtime for your children. You try so hard to counter my dependable, haphazard presence in our partnership. Even your first sex was by appointment—your mother’s weekly Wednesday commute to Jersey opened the afternoon to the slow climb of foreplay, a late April day’s long light, Al B. Sure, and candles as ambiance. I knew I meant too much to you to leave with your virginity, but in the days before, reading Jackie Collins on the subway to and from school, anticipation growing like a gorged, cocooned caterpillar, you thought orgasm while engaged in the act might sublimate me with your first petite mort, might flip the script, fill my silences with your words, thoughts spilling winged like a butterfly. But alongside your genetic need for just-so, I grew in you, with you, for you, knew before you tried to break the silence with (fluent?) pillow talk that I would be your most loyal lover.


Copyright © 2024 by Hayes Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 29, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

About this Poem

“I have always enjoyed reading and writing persona poems, and Patricia Smith’s collection Blood Dazzler opened for me the possibility of creating a persona that wasn’t a person. In crafting a series of poems in the voice of my stutter, I sought to make the voice neutral, even though stuttering felt like an antagonist in high school. By the end of the poem, the speaker voices the gradual reckoning I’ve achieved in thinking about my stutter as less of an affliction and more a part of my unique self.”
—Hayes Davis