But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Exodus 4:10


Maybe the child learned to speak

the river first: sudden rush


of fricatives, of water splitting

reed, the thresh the hitch


the lapping into bankside

strainer trees, syntax sedging


ripplewise—its rise, its

sudden fall. Maybe he learned


the spaces there, how fish

make sounds their bodies


shape: their silver commas

gulping air, then disappearing 


down. It’s these spaces

he starts to mouth,


gumming their shape, their weight,

their breadth, the way they pressurize


the throat then finally gust 

across—they cascade


out of him, then build,

pause and hold his throat


again. He learns the pace.

He eddies, swells. He teethes


the current’s crack. Voices

approach: the child cries.


He hears the river babble back.



after Jjjjjerome Ellis, Jordan Scott

Talia Isaacson practices poetry as defined by Alice Oswald: that is, poetry as “not about language, but about what happens when language gets impossible.” Informed by experience with a glottal block stutter, Talia’s work dwells in the agricultural and ecological, working to understand patterns of fluency and the wisdom in derailing them. She is from San Diego, California, and is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Virginia.