“Speaking of Tongues” by Nina Corwin

Nina Corwin


A man with Alzheimer’s says he left
his pants on in the other room. He means
the lights. They need to be turned off.
His son dissects the message
and after cleaning the old man up,
they walk together to the day care center.

The finely vintaged connoisseur swirls
his Cabernet in a crystal glass. Sips carefully,
distributing so every tastebud
gets a say, then spits out
adjectives like impudent, toasty and
mature despite its youth.

Consider the downstate pharmacist
who parses Pidgin English
when he travels overseas. Enunciating
loudly to make himself understood.
Back home he speaks in tongues
before a god with no ears.

The word-muscle is double
jointed. Ties itself in hitch knots, does back
flips on balance beams,
then strays across the median
into oncoming traffic. Syllables like limbs
with compound fractures.

All afternoon, the pair of us
lick envelopes for hungry children
in Sudan. Later, we survey
the versatility of tongues:
our palates piqued with lemon sorbet
and the salt of each other’s skin.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010
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