To The First Speaker

Courtesy of Flickr/The Zen Diary -David Gabriel Fischer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

You—who are kin to all clans;

You—who called the rain       we’ve been drowning in for eons;

      did you flinch to find   a shard of self

                              split off—a passing thought

            unhidden?    Did it feel forbidden?


Or was it like the stone    you raised

     between your hands, and—gauging     its weight against your son’s—

      tossed it        into a river?

                  Are we the mist     upon your arms?

                        Why do I assume you’re female?


Your friends will look      away;

your dog will sniff         and walk—one paw

      unstuck from mud—into a clearing      you’re on the cusp of naming.

            They will return.

                  They’re newer      to this brand of shaming.


And listening grows         more slowly

still—like a snowbank      in a winter evening—

      as crowds form in twos or tens

            to coin a word       that’ll pass through us

                                  like a mating or mourning.

Derek Mong is a poet and critic, and the Byron K. Trippet Assistant Professor of English at Wabash College. His latest collection is The Identity Thief, excerpts of which can be found on his website.
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