Tongues by Justin Danzy
Becoming the raspberry stain on the pink of your cheek,
a tongue’s soft landing spot. Becoming the empty ritual,
what can’t be said. Becoming intercession, my language
becoming yours, the blessing of tongues. Becoming the river
in the belly, implanted language, dead boy’s song. Becoming dry
with manhood. Becoming the doors we’ve closed, those I’ve learned
to open with a tongue. Becoming seen in the body, witnessed, becoming
clarity, the fear of it. Becoming the name I’ve been given,
the honorific, a placeholder. Becoming postured
to my Father’s dilemma, the inherited tongue. Becoming
what I wish I could be on my own. Becoming kept,
becoming stolen, becoming made free to leave when I am not yet ready
to go. Becoming the might of what we serve, the oft-
invisibled. Becoming don’t look back, pillar of salt. Becoming idoled.
Becoming possessed. Becoming the body’s mettle, the tongue’s chisel.
Becoming compass. Becoming the help that I needed, my Father’s hidden
forgiveness. Becoming the secrets I hope to taste in you,
the wounded tongue, braided blood covenant. Becoming forbidden’s
starting point, a bold beginning, the flaying of what I do not yet know I believe.
“Tongues” appears in the September 2021 issue of Poetry, which is now available to buy from newsstands everywhere or to read on the Poetry Foundation’s website.
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