R and I got talking the other day about stumbling and stalling before an audience; reminded me of a poem I wrote some decades ago about a speech defect, more common than you’d think, I was afflicted with. It’s long gone but you’re never quite cured. It can come back anytime under extreme stress. I’ve since written a rap version of this and will present it at a slam:


The word ‘Elizabeth’ got me.

When people asked where I worked

I had to say it

syllable by syllable

but not so slowly people

thought me dumb .

A breath before hand helped .

Other words obtruded

words that caught me up

that I couldn’t get into

like a claustrophobe

before a lift .

I learned to word switch

to an easier word

one that rolled off

the tongue .

Though I still trembled

before an audience

like the king * who was

subject to stuttering .

But then I remembered

there were others —

Lewis Carrol

Isaac Newton

even Aesop

whose thoughts often outran

the tired tortoise of his tongue.



*King George the Sixth





4 thoughts on “Affliction

  1. Very good. When I was a student, and had a very poor diet, a common meal from the student canteen was sausage, egg and chips. I could never say it properly. Came out as something like “sosnegchips”. Might be why I became vegetarian. Egg and chips is much easier.


  2. there’s always a phrase we’re vulnerable too; I had it tough: for 3 years I taught at Elizabeth West High so when people asked where I taught I had to attempt to say it; ther’s no synonym for Elizabeth 🙂


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