• Abigail Rivera

The Speech Pathologist

They were in the hospital

Just the man and the speech pathologist.

She scooping applesauce into his mouth,

And he just hoping he’ll be able to swallow

Without aspirating.


The man is gripping the sheets on his bed,

And all he is thinking is—

What a simple pleasure it is to eat?

And again, she tells him to open wide,

And the man is praying,

And the Speech Pathologist is too

Because he is only 43.


43 is kids and a wife.

It’s school nights and holidays.

It’s baseball games and vacations in humid places with palm trees.

It’s bike rides and a job at a place where the men wear ties,

And talk about important things in big rooms with fancy chairs.

The Speech Pathologist doesn’t say that, though.

She just says that 43 is young—

Young to be unable to eat.

Young to have a feeding tube.

Too young.


Again, the Speech Pathologist is studying her machine.

She is watching the esophagus,

Which looks black on the screen,

Gently push and pull the food down into his body.

And her red lips stretch into a smile

Because the food is on the right path,

And so is the man.


The Speech Pathologist tells the man, he’ll be okay.

Of course, she would’ve said that regardless, but she tells him

He’s not aspirating,

Instead he is only aspiring.

Aspiring for dreams he thought he lost

And the air which tastes like life.


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