I-I-I stammer.

by Alolika Dutta
Mental Movement Magazine

I stammer. I find myself in my stammer.

I find myself where I lost myself.

I find myself in the powerlessness of the sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, and carnations growing along the edge of the pavement between the grey concrete and the wet, gingerbread soil that thrives as a spout of rebellion against the centuries of turmoil that are written in these squares that fathom my voice,

I find myself in the distortions of my face, the spasms of my mouth as I force words to flow from a garden where nothing grows, a museum with no colour, from a river with no water, from a soul without saying because the voice of my language is a prisoner in the monument, the minaret of my throat,

I find myself in the silence before I say Alolika. Yes, it is my name and no, I can’t say it. I stammer through the syllables, through the crest and trough of dialects dancing to the rhythm of my monotone. It is my identity and I do not identify with it. It is what they call me but I don’t call myself as it sleeps upon the bed of my spirit, motionless, dead. I call out to myself in the space between the sky and the sea, between the hurricanes of revolution and the quiet of an aged eighty, between the stutter and the sigh.

I find myself in the hopelessness of my audience.

I find myself in the discomfort of my listener.

I find myself in the fears of my mother.

I find myself in the helpless incomprehension of laggard language and riddled verse that speaks of assemblies and oratories and chapels with whitewashed walls and blood trickling down the cylindrical pillar into the scalp of the priest who chants to the unseen while dressed in cloaks and cassocks that smell of dried death which feeds upon obscene clergymen and their feasts of fury driven by the glory of the words that drip from the crevices of their sordid mouths,

I find myself in my speech, in my voice that melts from the gates of paradise and slips into my throat like God summons souls,

The words that reverberate in the hollow between the tongue and the palette,

The words that are anchored to my bones,

The words that do not escape the edge of my lips and achingly drag themselves to the beginning of my throat,

The words that abandon me as my eyes stare helplessly at an audience, now bored.

“What did she say?”

“Why’d you stop so abruptly?”

“Do you stammer?”

“Why do you stammer?”

I meet these sentences, these observational statements, these concerned glances at the doorway of my dismay.

Every time they looked away,

I told them, that I can speak a diction beyond their comprehension.

I can speak with the spontaneity, the suddenness, the drama of a dancer under the moonlight of her maidenhood, sketching silhouettes in the sun,

I can speak with the subtlety, the softness, and the satire of a singer who paints poetry with the flow of his syllables,

I can speak with the psychedelia, the plainness, and the precision of a painter who paints to the orchestra playing in my living room,

I can speak with the warmth, the warning, and the wavelength of a writer who writes to the grace of the dark romance between the paper and the ink,

I can speak. I can speak but not how you’d like me to. I can speak. I can speak but not how they told me I should. I can speak. I can speak but not how you would.

Every time you completed my sentence,

Every time you silenced my thought before my stammer could silence my voice,

Every time you dressed me with disgrace,

Every time you looked at me with uncertainty, wondering if my voice would suffice,

I showed you that it won’t. It will not suffice, it will not satisfy the mediocrity of mundane language that bleeds of mechanism and complicated construction. It will not be a slave. It will not let you dictate. It will speak its own language. When I stammer, I speak a language that the Lords don’t know. I speak a language that belongs to me, alone.

I will stammer.

I will stammer at I Love You.

I will stammer as I say I Do.

And, I will stammer every time I utter the truth.

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