Forced to wander without
those memories leave
the kind that made
            you tremble
and hide, try to still
            the klaxon
thudding of your heart,
the animal rasping in
            your throat.
Those silenced rhizomes
            shoot out runners
to snare and trip you at
            ordinary moments:
meat searing on a stove,
            an infant’s cry,
a whiff of dank mud
            after rain.
You sleep with the light on,
            but still
the wordless ones fasten
            clammy fingers
around your throat.
            You wake,
gasping syllables of
            that tongue
you locked away, those
your children will never know,
            those words
nobody here can understand.
            You refuse
to recognize them.

Sheryl Slocum lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she teaches English as a second language at Alverno College. Her poems have appeared in numerous small press publications, including BluelineThe Anglican Theological Review, and The Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. Some of her poems are informed by her Peace Corps experience of living in a country torn by civil war and by the conflict experiences of her refugee students. A Pushcart nominee, Sheryl is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

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