Adjust Your Sibilance: Poetry by Cathryn Shea

By Cathryn Shea


Getting Fitted with New Words

The doc puts numbing drops in my eyes.
Can you see the big letters? Good.
Now please read as far as you can from the chart.

Up above
the gay young
wind of spring 

We’re not testing grammar today, and no punctuation.
Only words.
This is a word-phoropter. We’ll be flipping its lenses
back and forth while you say which word is best.

Shadow, umbrage.
You see double with umbrage?
Again, shadow or umbrage.
Shadow, I say.
OK. Old English.

Inchoate, formless.
These are blurry, especially inchoate, I say.
Then let’s try formless, shapeless.
They seem the same to me.
Try again. Formless, shapeless.
Um, formless. I mean shapeless.
OE root again. Are you sure? I nod.

We don’t need to go further. Let’s start out
with strong Anglo-Saxon and weak Latin for now.
See how this works for you, then we’ll adjust your sibilance
and we’ll calibrate your assonance.

You might have a few side effects. Some people feel
a strong caesura or break and they find this uncomfortable.
So just let us know and we can add more French.
If you have trouble sleeping, we’ll up your Sanskrit.

Cathryn Shea’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Dirty Chai, Gargoyle, Gravel, Main Street RagPermafrost, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. Cathryn’s chapbook, Snap Bean is by CC.Marimbo (2014). Cathryn served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology and is the author of dozens of software and database manuals (sometimes confused with creative non-fiction). Cathryn lives in Fairfax, CA and spends part of each day watching over a covey of California quail. See and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

artCover art “The Dream Crypt” by Christine Stoddard. Click on the thumbnail to the right to see a larger version of the image, and see more of Christine’s art at her website.


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