Central California Writers 1st Place Winner, Poetry

The Actual Tongue
after Leslie Adrienne Miller

is a slash in my mouth, a catastrophe of shrieks,
a blank clump. Mourning, it sticks then stretches,

fills silence with squeals of unexamined grief.
Caressing, it slides over skin and song, sin

and sinew. In motion, it dangles and flutters,
healed by no doctor, no nurse. Is a thousand

poets bending to their notebooks at noon,
though only one will record just the right cry.

Swallowed, it is an old log sinking, caught
in swamp and slurry, industrial run-off.

Freed, it runs into abandoned farmhouses,
seeks histories it cannot translate, cannot hide.

Rising, it circles the path around my lips,
his lips, tasting cast-off cells. Spurned,

it’s the stiff clot of sawdust stuck
in back of our mouths, a sword that,

vulgar and sore, stabs what we shouldn’t
say, at people we should not say it to.

Allison Joseph