First lallation, then the easy intimacies.
Home-spoken words are bound to cause
mortification later. Soft sounds parents use
to coax language from children, utterances
that name private acts, body parts,
and close relations. In grade school,
these terms are met with laughter
or a blank stare.
It began that way. How for a period of time,
he called grandfather Mr. Levine
instead of Zeyde. Was it the many jarring
synonyms for kinsfolk —Meemaw, Papi, Nana, Opa—
that that muted him?
His mother surely embarrassed him when she rubbed
his nipples and called them pinchy-booms.
And the bathroom words. Don’t get me started.