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"record scratch"

my voice is music to no one’s ears.
this record player is broken,
trapped in a loop,
repeating the same sounds
over and over and over and over and—

everyone trips over their words sometimes.
it’s funny, a nice laugh, maybe a little embarrassment.
but i don’t trip.
i fall
i crash
i burn.

i can feel it coming
which is worse.
i know, as i raise my hand in history class
that my mouth is going to betray me
and this record player is going to skip
and i’m going to fall and crash and burn over
“paul r-r-r-r-r-revere”
for ten seconds of agony,
knowing everyone is looking at me
with either pity or amusement.
i don’t know which is worse.

of course, there is no logic to this music
because in biology class i can say "phenylthiocarbamide"
but in the next sentence i can't say "microscope"

and no, slowing down and taking a deep breath
and thinking about what i want to say
does not help.
it just sounds condescending as hell.

the only reason i'm not stuttering in this spotlight
is because i have a paper in front of me.
a poem written word for word
letter for letter,
yet still the letters have a chance of tripping me up.

i know i am smart and i am clever
but sometimes i think people pay more attention
to the fact that i'm stuttering
instead of what i'm trying to say.

it hurts.
because i see you waiting for me.
i hear you become impatient
and say what word you think i mean,
"and then i went outside with my d-d-d—"
"—d-dog. yeah."
it doesn't help
(and sometimes you aren't even right)
it's only
one more instance of an embarrassment
cemented into the stutter-cracked sidewalk of my memory.
when i finally wrestle the word from my mouth
i notice that pitying smile
as you continue the conversation like nothing has happened
i can tell what just happened
even if you think i can't talk without t-t-tripping

all i ask of you
is to listen to my record scratch voice.
listen to the music that isn't perfect
and the notes are off-key
but the message is there.
don't try to sing over me.
just listen
and wait for me
to use my voice.