Rumors & Teeth
This past Sunday night I received a text message from a friend asking about a rumor she heard. "I heard you are getting all of your teeth removed. Is this true?". I looked at the screen on my phone, sighed audibly to an empty room, and pressed the button on the side of the phone that makes the screen go black. "How am I going to handle this?", I wondered aloud.
So here goes:
I have a speech impediment.
It is officially referred to as a "lisp" but, to add clarity, it is a "hiss". People who hear me speak can almost always understand what I'm saying, but I have a difficult time pronouncing the letter "S", a double S ("SS") is beyond inconvenient and a sentence with "S alliteration" - though, perhaps poetically brilliant, is a total no-go for someone with speech issues like mine. In addition - pronouncing "C" words when "C" makes a sound closer to an "S" - and sometimes "Ch", "X" and "Z". As you know, most of these are popular letters.
For decades, I've carefully, deliberately, and tediously eliminated thousands of words from my spoken vocabulary. I don't say them because I am unable to say them well. But, when it comes to poetry, I don't limit my words - and this makes reading my work publicly problematic.
A little over a year ago, my amazing friend Siren Hand asked me to read my poems live, online, on her poetic platform Observe the Word. I said yes and was immediately super excited about the opportunity. The interview and readings were scheduled for the pm hours of a day two weeks away, so I purchased decent lighting, bought a new tie for the evening and was ready.
Siren is a perfect host (and an incredible poet) - her welcome (to me) and introduction were bubbly, exciting, and fun. Throughout the broadcast, she asked me in-depth, well thought-out, interesting questions and, between them, I'd read poems of mine.
The set up worked (and works) very well - but, while watching the broadcast after the recording was released, I learned how advanced and noticeable (impossible not to catch) my speech impediment was - I was devastated. There were several lines in a few of my poems I delivered poorly - so poorly, the lines didn't make sense due to my speech impediment jarbling the pronunciations - making the words unintelligible.
I have not read my poems in public since. ______________
Several months ago, I visited a local speech therapist and she walked me through various vocal and pronunciation tests. She was (and is) very friendly, but said she couldn't help me until I have good teeth - most importantly, front teeth.
All of my front upper teeth are below the gum line (making it difficult for me to pronounce the letter "S" and others). All other top teeth and all lower front teeth (including those in front) are diseased, rotting, embarrassingly colored, crooked and jagged, and broken. ______________
Actually, I need to adjust the last couple of lines - the tense used is inaccurate. The rumor is true and all of my teeth were pulled out of my mouth yesterday morning during a very aggressive and challenging (I was slightly sedated, but remained awake) 3-hour procedure. Immediate dentures were ordered and pre-made over a month ago and they are in my mouth as I write this.
I am at a wonderful friend's home recovering - she is amazing and taking care of me as I recover.
For the next few months, I'll be learning how to smile (I don't know how to smile with straight teeth) and I'll be learning how to pronounce letters of the alphabet and combinations of letters I haven't been able to (and still can't). I begin speech therapy next month.
My goal is to, hopefully one day soon, be able to read, with confidence, my poetry in public and on online public platforms. I'd like to adventure on a small American southern states poetry tour towards the end of 2022. A few months before then, I'm planning on hosting an online poetry event that, I'm certain, will be a lot of fun. None of these endeavors were possibilities until yesterday morning.
There are no guarantees I'll be able to do any of these things soon (or ever) - but, for the first time, there is good reason to believe I may, eventually (and after lots of hard work) speak clearly. And that would mean everything to me.
So, yeah, the rumor is true.
Pictured: Jimmy Broccoli & Caesar the Therapy Bunny Rabbit