Elective Mute

by Susan Utting

Inside her head she’s eloquent, knows
all the answers, words that tumble out
in perfect clause and cadence, words

like clause and cadence, beautifully
enunciated to herself, alone. Like stories
she makes up, hobgoblin tales where

small girls answer riddles, save lives
of princes tied to trees, win golden
treasure kept in chests and coffers, like

this, her life is charmed, she’s powerful
as a villainess whose thought-spells
turn a pinching boy to jagged stone,

a chalk-faced mistress to a panting toad,
a matron to a pile of linen, waiting to be
scrubbed and starched, flat-ironed, scorched.