One day a poet opens his mouth and nothing comes out.
This is the first time this has happened to him.
He feels the words stuck in the back of his throat. He feels them tickle and chafe. He clears his throat to free the words but nothing comes out.
He clears his throat a second time but nothing comes out. He clears his throat a third time and still nothing comes out. The poet decides there is something wrong with him.
He goes to a doctor. The doctor, an ear, nose and throat man, examines him. He probes his mouth and throat with a wooden tongue depressor. He says he feels words but cannot dislodge them. He takes x-rays of the poet's throat from the front and side. The words are clearly visible on the film. But they cannot be read because they have been compressed into a mass.
The doctor shows the x-rays to the poet.
The poet, unable to speak, scribbles on the notepad he always carries with him and hands the note to the doctor. The note says: "Well?"
The doctor shakes his head and gives him the name of a specialist.
The poet goes to the specialist. The specialist examines him, has him swallow a radioactive isotope. He gives him a CAT scan. The words are clearly visible on the picture. They glow bright yellow but still cannot be read.
The poet, not one to waste words, hands the specialist the same note he had handed the other doctor, the note that says: "Well?"
The specialist shakes his head and gives him his bill. The poet is very agitated.
He scribbles furiously in his notepad: "The words are stuck in my throat. I can't eat. I'll starve to death."
The specialist shrugs. He gives the poet the name of a surgeon in South America who has developed an experimental operation for cutting congealed words out of throats of poets The specialist warns the poet that this procedure is very risky.
The poet takes all the money from his savings account, goes to South America and gets the operation.
He dies on the table from complications.
The surgeon preserves the congealed mass of words in a jar.
Someday, he says to himself, he will cut them apart and read them.
Then he will retire and write his memoirs.
Four-time Pushcart as well as Best of the Net nominee J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is coauthor of PEACH GIRL: POEMS FOR A CHINESE DAUGHTER (Grayson Books) and author of BEAUTIFUL DAY, forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions.