These are easy, since they’re all air. You open your mouth wide, as if trying to catch a snowflake on your tongue.
These are like wadding up gum and blowing a bubble, only sometimes it feels like I don’t have enough.
Sometimes, they’re a cymbal. Other times, the flautist raises her elbows.
A heavy dull blow. I feel as though I am pounding on a door that no one opens.
The mouth spreads its wings.
They foam over, as if someone just poured peroxide.
I often get stuck on these. They get caught at the back of the throat, as though I swallowed a hard candy.
They are softer, a long exhale, as if you’re in the midst of smoking a cigarette. Stuttering is when you take another drag.
I cry out as if in pain, as if I just stubbed my toe.
Swishing with mouthwash.
These erupt, quick and cacophonous, like a hiccup.
A magic trick. You bring the tongue to the roof of your mouth, where it levitates all on its own, like an assistant.
These are tricky. You press your lips together, let them buzz a little, and then release. It’s like you enact an entire courtship and separation. Like young lovers, sometimes mine remain together long after it’s prudent.
I feel as though I’ve eaten too much peanut butter.
A kiss on the cheek, the kind you give your aunt.
At summer’s end, we deflate the beach ball.
The reverse of drinking through a straw. You make a small hole between your tongue and teeth. Stuttering is when there’s nothing left in the glass but ice.
A blender on high.
Like pulling a handkerchief from your breast pocket. Stuttering is like that other magic trick when the handkerchief is endless.
To make these, you strike the tongue against the roof of the mouth, as if trying to start a fire.
A sigh. As though I am trying to blow out all the candles of an enormous cake, or resuscitate the dead.
Veering from your lane on the highway onto the rumble strip.
I’m blowing on a white dandelion. Stuttering is when some of the seeds remain.
Fighting with someone and then whispering to them after.
You just got off work or jumped into cold water.
Now these are my favorite. They’re like a plane ride that suddenly turns turbulent. Even when you pronounce them fluently, they still stutter.
Adam Giannelli is the author of Tremulous Hinge (University of Iowa Press, 2017), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, and the translator of a selection of prose poems by Marosa di Giorgio, Diadem (BOA Editions, 2012). His writing has appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. He is a person who stutters. For more information, visit adamgiannelli.com.