This story was originally published in Vulture Bones, issue 4.
You live among witches, you’ve been told,
which is why your mother grabs you
when you open your mouth to give the
baker your name. She asked so sweetly,
but your mother takes you from the shop,
loaves left still warm on the counter.
Back at the house, your mother makes
you write the words over and over:
“I will not speak to strangers.”
The incident is one of many cited when
you’re the first of your birth year to be
quieted. The larynx is vestigial on most,
they write, you’ve no need for it if all
you have to say is self-dooming folly.
The loss of blood is nothing to fear;
any weakness is purely psychosomatic.
You finally bask in the glow of their pride
when you sew your lips with catgut thread,
better to serve as a harp for others to
pluck with their own stories. You’d already
bit off and swallowed your own tongue.
You could not taste the loss.