If I Could Move Your Lips For You

Gael Hannan
April 3, 2012

If I could move your lips for you, I would.

We’ve been friends forever and I can read your emotions, easily.

But reading your words is tough because your lips don’t move,

Not much.

Friendships with new people, wonderful people, have not flourished

Under the strain of communication, but

You are my friend – I want to keep talking with you forever.


And today, meeting in Starbucks, I’m in trouble

As I watch, listen and interpret your lips,

Shaping words for me to see and breathing sounds for me to hear.

Your lips are smiling – but your eyes are not.

Your fingers drum the café tabletop,

Competing with the noise of a hundred coffee cups.

We could talk in a quiet, well-lit place,

But we love the atmosphere here,

And the lower lighting flatters our age.


So whose fault is it – yours, mine or ours –

When for the ten thousandth time

I must ask you to repeat yourself?

I sense your invisible eye-rolling and sighing.

Immediately, I’m both apologetic and resentful

And I want to shout:

 OK, I’m sorry to ask you to repeat – again, 

But maybe if you moved your damn lips!?

I do everything I can to make it easier,

This café isn’t that loud, or that dark.

We’re sitting close and I’m wired for sound.

The only thing I can’t control is the way you move your lips.

I hate to say it, but you missed the “giving good lip” gene.

You’re just not good at it.

Sometimes I want to reach over and grab a lip in each hand and move them,

So that you can feel how the words should come out.


But I don’t say this, because it’s difficult to change how we speak, and I know you try.

We’ve been friends forever, and I love you.

But if I could move your lips for you, I would:

   Keep them pointed in my direction

Move them apart from each other

Slow them down

         Free them from food and fingers

Match their expression with your eyes

Let them enjoy rolling around the vowels,

playing percussion with the consonants


If I could move your lips for you, I would.

But I can’t.

So please tell me – again – what you just said.


– Gael Hannan, 2012 

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  1. I hear you loud and clear, Gael. I know how you feel too. I have known people who don’t even move their lips when speaking.. They just smile and talk through their beautiful white teeth and their voice are monotonous with no fluctuation in their tone. It is a nightmare for me sometime when you have to work with an individual that does that. I don’t know how many time I have asked for them to move their hands from their face while speaking, “please speak clearer and just talk just a little bit louder” I would asked. yet they don’t do anything they are asked to do.

    Great story Gael.. thanks for sharing.

    1. Gael,
      You are so prophetic and wise, as well as humorous. This post is so eloquent and on point. I will share with my wonderful hearing family.
      Thank you,

  2. I hate to say it, but I can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t move his/her lips! It’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to communicate with someone like that – so a friendship doesn’t even spark.

    Were you friends at a time when your hearing was better?

  3. How true Gael. It’s a combination of people not moving their lips and speaking quietly. Then, of course, I have a friend who will start out facing me and then turn away to point something out to me. I’ll remind her I can’t hear when she turns away. She apologizes, faces me for a few minutes . . . and then forgets and turns away again . . . expecting me to be able to hear her. 🙂

  4. Love it! I’m profoundly hard of hearing and rely on lip reading so much. This is great!

  5. yes, dear friends all together but they turn to others when speaking, I know they cannot face me all the time but it is frustrating. May just as well have stayed at home with subtitles on TV.

  6. I should have read this last week and printed it for my siblings who came to visit on Easter Sunday. Thanks Gael. How lovely it would be if our friends and family remembered to move the lips and slow down the pace.

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