Up until the third grade, I couldn’t make the s sound.
When I went to the pool in the summer, I said look at my wimming woot.
When kids asked What’s your name? I said Emily Tout.
But usually I didn’t talk because I was afraid of doing it wrong.
I started going to speech therapy with a teacher from my school.
It’s not that you can’t say it, you just need practice, she said,
half of learning is making mistakes. I didn’t want to be scared
of a letter, even one shaped like a whip. She showed me how
to move my mouth: gently press the tongue forward, push air
between the front two teeth. We practiced saying words like sail,
savings, sandwich, snakes, sock, scissors, sea, schedule, soap,
scratch, skin, section, self. At night I repeated words until I decided
it’s not a whip—it’s a river. Some things I have turned into rivers
since then: grief, heights, spiders, love, phone calls, storms, poetry.

SHAPES by Emily Stout

Photo by Edna Winti, used and adapted under CC.