Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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Tongue Tied

(a) Unable or disinclined to speak freely

The motor commands that choreograph speech are a privilege to possess, though I frequently find myself thinking
about silence,
and the reasons for which I may choose to leave it unbroken.

In my privilege, I frequently forget that an eternal tongue-tie,
that moment when silence becomes perpetual,
could be in my future.

Bisected by a trench as old as humanity, two fertile regions of brain work together to produce my speech.
with the energy supplied by a river of blood flow, one part does the thinking while one does the talking.

I take this duo for granted, often forgetting what would happen if that blood flow were blocked,
if a piece of clot,
if a sliver of fat,
were to be shot into my brain
by a single unsuspecting heartbeat.

In a flash, I’d be doomed
to drown in my own swimming thoughts,
with no chance of coming up for air through the power of glorious expression.
It’s volitional tongue-tie turned permanent.
Medicine calls it a stroke;
I call it a life-sentence in which my thoughts become my eternal cell mates.

How awful it would feel:
to have something to say but to be powerless to say it.
A feeling akin to anger, bubbling like the energy of a river unable to follow its destined course.
Yet, I constantly tie my own tongue,
tying to fit in,
tying to avoid confrontation,
tying out of trepidation,
forgetting that words are a gift that can be lost in a heartbeat.

I never want to regret my silence.
I’ll metaphorically cut my own frenulum of fear.
I’ll try to make my own voluntary tongue-tie a thing of the past,
disentangling the knot of doubt that possesses my tongue.
I’ll try to break the silence now,
while I still can.

Poetry Thursdays is a weekly newsletter that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. This initiative is led by Slavena Salve Nissan at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Slavena.

Arya Shah Arya Shah (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Mayo Clinic School of Medicine

I'm currently in the Midwest at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and hoping to pursue a career in psychiatry, neurology or some combination of the two. What gets me through the cold, dark Minnesota winters is my writing, my hot yoga, and my perpetually growing to-do list of art projects. In continuing to pursue creative endeavors, and in working to engage my classmates in the arts, I hope to show people that creative expression can help to keep burnout at bay and help to keep humanism alive in medicine.