George Witte

Brightening Glance

The gym's ball-light cast silhouettes,
blue stars that swarmed the stage, then disappeared.
In scarlet caps and snowflake wings
your class lined up, obedient, to sing.
Brain numbed by Phenobarbital
you could not shape stiff mouth and tongue to speech,
struck dumb by seizure's afterburn.
We wondered if you knew why consonants
required such practice- /s/ and /f/
surmised by reading others' lips and hands
but rarely heard, that register
destroyed before you even woke from birth's
abruption, drowned by protocol.

Clutching hands, we imagined your unease.
The song began; you stood alone,
small and stunned, frozen in our hopeful gaze
like some nocturnal animal
surprised by morning light.And then you ran,
stage front and center—electric
sneakers flashing out their coded firefly
language—to gallop a ballet,
eyes searching for us in that darkened crowd,
their glint defiant and alive.
We laughed and wept, now understood: You knew,
you'd thought it through, in secret glee
rehearsed your dance, and in such dancing, sang.


From Does She Have a Name? (NYQ Books,2014)

Topic(s) of this poem: daughters, deafness, disability, parenthood

Poem Submitted: Friday, December 6, 2019

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