Word Travel

By Maureen Martin Appel

The timbre of his voice lulls me to a safe place where I no longer hear others, where my super-sensitive antennae fold down for a moment, and I feel my belly relax into the cadence of his words. He leans back against the headboard, his neck cushioned by a pillow as he holds a hardbound copy of Thomas in both hands.

I am lying on my side, head propped in one hand, elbow crooked, and each millimeter of his face is imprinted in my memory¾the graying hair, no longer golden; his blue eyes, a little softer now; the Roman nose and sculpted chin; a fine layer of stubble on his cheeks; his lips which have remained soft and agreeable. I am listening to the words, mellow and gorgeous, and somewhere inside I see a child dancing, relieved of her responsibilities, so soothed by the rich lower register of his voice: When I was a windy boy and a bit… 


He has read this poem a dozen times¾to Joe on his eighteenth birthday, to himself on his sixtieth birthday¾and always the music of his voice transports me to a soft place where I release myself into starry night and hold my small self in wonder. He looks over at me, eyes peering above his glasses. “Another?” and I nod yes. The music of words begins again, the steady rhythm, the warmth and resonance of sound from those lips. All of a sudden I am fifteen, sitting in room 212, row one, seat two, leaning back in my chair, alert, astonished, drifting on some unfamiliar cloud as I listen to him read Cummings to the class: Somewhere I have never traveled, your eyes have their silence…What is happening? Who talks like that?


I allowed myself to be carried on that sensuous voice, on a sea of word travel, filling up with treasure, momentarily reveling in the solidarity of beauty, of suffering, and unequivocally sprung. And now he closes the book, his hands folding together across his chest, his soft breath filling the space between us. I reach for the worn spine of Mary Oliver and begin:

Alleluia, Alleluia sighs the pale green moth on the screen door

Alleluia, Alleluia




Maureen Martin Appel lives in Oakland, CA. She works as a lactation consultant, teaching and helping new mothers breastfeed. Her forthcoming work will appear in Pearl.

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