Robert Olen Butler

     This was her true voice. I came to know that her father was always there in her true voice. This was her voice except for the naming of the sweetest part of her body. Maybe that was her voice also, for her self-loathing was very strong, and the word I hear, cunt, carries that. But maybe not. If the words for a place so softly, so complexly portaled and swirled, a place so prone to weep in joy, seem ridiculously inadequate to me, then what must they seem to a woman? For a woman to have a place at the center of her that she cannot really see -- not like my part, which yields its whole shape to the slightest glance -- for her to have a place that is like the mystery of personality, difficult even for itself to apprehend, for a woman to have such a place in her body that gathers a man into it from his deepest yearning, a place that also cries forth a new child into the world, for her to have such a place full of the mystery of love and desire and the creation of life, I am sure she has no name for it in her truest voice. Just as there are no names for the feelings in myself that I am trying in all of this to understand. I speak now, speak in the ways I do, because I am ravished with love for this center of a woman's body that has no name, that can't be turned into a thought, that will not yield in any way but through my senses.
     And so, because I give words to whispers, to sounds like the faint hiss from the edge of the universe, there are these little bits of broken translation when there are no names.

     There was the sudden calmness of irony in her voice and I drew near and finally I could say something I meant. "I was a dumb shit to tell you that story."
     "Yes, that's true."
     "But this was a thing I'd never spoken before to anyone. Can I be wildly insensitive to you and deeply respect you with the very same words?"
     She lifted her face at this and considered it. "Yes," she said. "Perhaps so."