Sat in the circle at group therapy, he
wants to tell us that his wife (of eight years,
nearly nine) speaks in tongues, whenever
they make love – Otherwise known as
screaming any, sometimes every, name but
his – her back bent back like the devil of
autumn nights, head spinning around in
a blur of teeth and fury, tongue clambering out
of her jaws and down his throat. He wants to tell
us that she screams at him to wash his mouth
out before he kisses her, and that she knows what
death is on his lips, and what rot is on his tongue.
Her withered claws out, burning under the metal
rings that bind her to the bedpost and bind her to
the house. Sitting in the circle, slightly less comfortable
than he was before, he wants to tell us that he hears
names in her moans at least once a week, and faces
in the flames of her private passions; his neighbour –
the one with the gas-powered lawnmower, who always
seems to have the right amount of greased-up sweat
on his forehead. The postman – the one who calls on
his house first, each morning on his rounds, even when
there is no post. Perhaps just to say good morning, or
get a taste of a fresh batch of home-made cookies.
Or his friend from work – the one that leads grace at his
Sunday dinners, every other weekend whilst his children
sit by with hungry-open-mouths. Sitting in the circle; the
cool air of the dingy meeting room under the church-hall
doing nothing for the sweat dripping down the small of
his back. His leg curled up resting on his knee, and his
hands firmly rolling his head back up his shoulders, he begins
to open his mouth. He wants to tell us that he is a missionary,
dying of cholera in a distant rice paddy. Slowly choking, losing
air; lost in a land of languages incomprehensible to his
mind, ill-fitting in his mouth – Still not fluent in his wife’s growls
and screams. He wants to tell us that he composed, for her, a
letter on her thirty-fourth birthday formed of the jagged little
fragments of w o r d s that escape his mouth,
in between breaths, in between breathlessness, when he wants
to tell her that she’s beautiful. With the help of a translator…
Maybe, maybe, maybe, just maybe he’ll get through to her.
He wants to tell us all of this, and likely more, but he can’t. He’s
not holding the talking pillow. I am.
– coffee break –

Image: Summer Night by Edward Hopper (1947)