She didn’t remember who had first told her to, but whoever it was had a sharp tongue, so she thought it might’ve been her great-grandmother who looked stiff as a plate in that photograph of her by the grandfather clock. She’d been told her great-grandmother’s tongue could cut air, but the air was invisible to her, though others had seen it. Her father had seen it. This she knew because he’d said something or other had clouded the air between her mother and him. She had a short tongue, which made it difficult to hold; so she envied those who had a long tongue, like the boy across the street who always stuck his out at her. She could do it with one hand; but if she had to hold it for any length of time, it took her two. And that was awkward until she learned to bite down hard on it when she heard her mother tell her father, Bite your tongue, and he hadn’t even said a word. Later he’d told her he’d been given a real tongue lashing, so she knew her mother had a tongue as long as a belt strap. She wished she’d been tongue-tied all along, like her sister who was asked if the cat had got her tongue by their old maid aunt, of whom her mother said the men she was always going to marry seemed to swallow their tongue whenever it came to popping the question. If she could swallow her tongue, she’d run off and join the circus, like that sword-swallower she’d seen. But whenever she tried, she’d gag. So she settled for being a girl who couldn’t hold her tongue.
- Post author:Coe Review
- Post published:February 3, 2018
- Post category:Fall 2017 / Poetry / Poetry 2017 / Print Archives / Volume 48
- Reading time:2 mins read