Speech Therapy


In the latest
comic strip panel of

our family a light
bulb blinks

frosted on. Hold
on I stutter—

teeth hold
the tongue back everything

else breaks around it.


Mid mutter mid
plead and mid

quantum trick of the light me
joins me

Rising to greet the sun

bubblegum card in flutter
against the spokes of a Schwinn.

The semi
automatic sigh.


Speech Therapy

Let me remind you how we met—
a nine year old

accepting God an hour
after a long
form joke about a topless

car wash. They found the old man
the teller dead the same

time another they
found a brown recluse
hunched inside a centrifuge four

thousand miles away in a Zurich lab.
His riding mower

straining against the hydrangeas.


I know the glass
factory foreman is counting

the cherries on your dress—know

what that means. What I’m saying is
a shake of the head dismisses what

a turn of the head threatens.
Lay your

hands upon my sins. Forgive them


Say you died and came
back as one

of the electrodes fixed to my temple.
Are you the series of quick

exhalations? The gasping h?
The oaken

g? A technician hits

a button, asks what
I’m reading. Nothing
I start to say

finish saying six
minutes later.


Parse the ripples

off my brain.
Consider this
a wedding vow

a lifelong clawing
at the walls of

the day

Your neighbors crave

a story. Be still
until they flinch then say

I gnaw the air
when I speak your name.


In the Garden


Idly pecking
at the block of caged suet

a meme catches the morning sun.
Elsewhere a finch

finds itself in a family
group text. Imagine a mirror

at terminal velocity having
sex explained to it. That’s us–

the absence of reason

the sound of rushing wind
saying wait


Forget “dapple,” “shimmer.” Here

light fails always. A new mother wren
opens her mouth, a self-help podcast

falls out backward.
From under the paving stones

a burdock root, as if to whisper
More weight, blossoms.


Josh Ruffin has held jobs as a peach picker, radio producer, trail crew worker, college English instructor and bartender. His work has appeared in Post Road, PANK, Booth, Adirondack Review, Bodega Mag, and elsewhere. He lives, works, and runs in Madison, Wisconsin.