Tongues : 9


Of a vestment wrapped
around the wrong tree.

Of wild dogs gorging
the bone. Of a mirror

following me dream to
dream, several lifetimes at a time.

How its pond invites me, I am still
unsure. There was, of course, the tongue

clipping, my outer frenum
tossed among the dentist’s dead.

There was the salve that refused
the moon, a lapping in my ear

no one could seem to locate.
That habit of hiding

peppercorns in others’ voices.
I must have somehow known

that yogis take pepper
in a teaspoon of honey

each morning to cut the mucous.
Must have carried over

from other fires the particles
of coal in my groin.

I honestly got scared
when my left ear began spilling

birds onto the pillow.
First, a feather. Then a clutching

foot. Soon I was praying not to Brahman
but Brahms to stop the trash


to cut the mucous

collectors’ collusion with
the oversoul from gathering

my salt. Of a lost
left sock. Of a dogwood

composed of moans. Of an
honestly scared at my own

voice. Why I couldn’t cry
my own name, even with that

tongue in my chest,
has never been noted.

I could cry upside down
at the stink of my own

chewing. There was, of course,
the molds, the sulfites, the paramecia

partially parting the waves
in my chest. Of the sea-lice.

Of my ear. Of my oh-God-what-
now. That habit of talking

backwards like chalk
across bone. Whole passages,

renegade star-spin
sifting in the mute man’s

knee. Corridors of snow
hidden or hiding

a way back? I have
encrusted my sleep to each

waking quotient, which keeps me
dream-songing the clock

of my algebraic depth. How to die
deep while remaining alive?

Of the parting. Of the pepper.
Of the teaspoon

of Bengali honey
fighting off the bees

of worldly desire. I am
certain of my lack

of certainty, sure
in its hesitant necessity

to make me who I
do. First a feather,

then a struggle-clutch.
The elimination of excess

mucous from the deep
yogic breath. Chaos. Border.

The great great wheel
in more than the belly of the bear,

coming onto my honestly
scarred. Birdsong my heart.

DSC_2180-200w-199x300George Kalamaras is the author of six books of poetry and six chapbooks, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM Chapbook Award, 2012), Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (Elixir Press Poetry Prize, 2011), and Symposium on the Body’s Left Side (Shivastan Publishing, 2011). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.