Origin Stories – Kelly Sargent

Origin Stories
Seeing Voices
    Seeing Voices 
    by Kelly Sargent

    My twin sister used to shut her eyes 
    to shut me up when we argued. 
    Born deaf, she held the advantage in any girlhood fight. 
    I had no choice but to be instantly 
    muted —
    her eyelids,
    a remote control when static sounded like me. 

    I would steady my hands in a signed 
    poised to whip the air in a justified retort. 
    Hands tired in one position though —
    a pouting pinkie dangling from my palm. 

    If I caught her squinting one eye, 
    I signed swiftly to get a word in,
    nut-brown eyelashes cemented once more, 
    silencing my voice,
    sheathing my words without permission.

    Tap, tap, tap on the shoulder:
    Listen to me. 
    Tap, tap, tap:
    I have something to say …

    I’m sorry. I was wrong.
    You’ll never know if you don’t open your eyes
    and hear me. 

    I’d reach out
    to touch her hand.
    I can’t shout if I’m holding yours.

    I miss her most on cloudy days. 
    I recall those rainy afternoons when we finger painted  
    under the kitchen’s fluorescent bulb
    and sipped Hawaiian Punch from smeared aluminum cans —
    quieter moments by necessity, but colored still 
    with goofy grins and funny red mustaches. 

    I slip away to my mirror in the bedroom
    to see her nut-brown eyes gazing back at me. 
    I press my palm against the cool glass,
    just to touch her hand again.

    *”Seeing Voices” originally appeared in Poetic Sun, and also appears in Seeing Voices: 
    Poetry in Motion (Kelsay Books, 2022).

Origin Stories – Seeing Voices

I grew up with a deaf twin sister, and communication could be both fun and frustrating. American Sign Language is a graceful, visually-poetic language, and I am fortunate to be fluent. This poem speaks to times as kids when conflict arose, as inevitably does between siblings, and how my twin decided, solely, when our heated discussions had reached an end. The irony is that though she was deaf and what some call “disadvantaged,” it was she who had seized and held the advantage during these times. This is one poem among several that I’ve written that attempts to reverse traditional notions of disability as damage and disadvantage and encourages readers to envision a world without ableism.

(Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion is a memoir-in-verse that reflects on twinhood, adoption, deafness, and the mirrors through which we see, lose, and find ourselves again. The chapbook can be found at Amazon, Kelsay Books, and RIT in Rochester, New York in the poetry section of the university’s library.

Amazon link: https://a.co/d/b57R6Zl )


Kelly Sargent serves as the creative nonfiction editor of The Bookends Review and on the editorial board of Beyond Words. She is the author of an award-nominated chapbook, Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion, and a modern haiku collection entitled Lilacs & Teacups. Her cover art and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in more than sixty literary publications, most recently including Rattle, Chestnut Review, Eunoia Review, and Kitchen Table Quarterly. Her works have received nominations for 2021 Best of the Net, a 2022 Touchstone Award for Individual Poems, and a 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award. A poem recognized in the international 2022 Golden Haiku poetry contest received a placard in Washington, D.C. Visit her at www.kellysargent.com to learn more.

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Now Available

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

April 19 – Claudia Reder

April 20 – Cathy Thwing

April 21 – Sarah Snyder

April 22 – Susan Barry-Schultz

April 23 – Laurie Kuntz

April 24 – Maryann Hurtt

April 25 – Yvonne Zipter

April 26 – Jess Parker

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

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