Heath at Two: Learning to Talk


Three words he's linked together now
With sounds that are not words. Immense
The furrow of his candid brow
As babble troubles into sense.

Some toys he mothers. The silent stare
That is their mien can anger him
Or bore him into blank despair.
Too bad, when things just stay the same,

Worse when they don't. However kindly
He may ponder his stuffed kangaroo
Or cuddle his soiled monkey blindly–
He'll rage and tear off his doll's shoes:

Because objects won't talk. He is
A stranger in the world he's made
Out of his own fierce mind. He tries
To rule it, but he finds it mad.

In time he'll give these toys a tongue,
Pose them debating in his head;
Wild histories will fire among
These figures impudently dead.

But now the silence will not break.
He cannot find the awkward key
That opens their hush to let it speak,
Speak, speak–and set his loving free.


Fred Chappell, Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1995.