John Poch

The Tongue

for Austin Hummell


The scriptures call it wicked, hypocrite,
the bridle turning the horse to war,
the rudder the ship to rocks,
cursing as it will before the wreck,
after the interception, during the bus ride home
where we tried the various fricatives
in the rebellion of our youth.


While one child’s first word is this,
and another tries to capture
her mother’s single words with her fist,
and yet another asks at bedtime,
Daddy, how much is night?
—my toddler daughter only sticks out
her tongue at the word tongue,
her small, moist strawberry of a tongue
she seems to eat when I reach for it
with forefinger and thumb.
She is an alien to me sometimes.
When she head-thuds the table edge,
her tongue becomes an alien in an alien
rearing its ugly tongue-of-a-head.


Paul Klee said he wanted all his life
to paint like a child. He did, eventually,
which is one reason we should have
Surrealist action figures. A man
across the hall has X-Files dolls
of Scully and Mulder on his desk.


I remember how, for seven years,
we begged the TV, Please, Chris
Carter, let them kiss, just once.

Our tongues wagged at the monstrous
interruptions: The Cigarette-Smoking Man,
The Well-Manicured Man, all conspiracies
against their love we knew was more
than friendship or fuzzy spaceship worship.
Their secret passion was sealed
like an X-file we knew existed,
forbidden, in a folder almost hidden
like a mouth and its tongue
that couldn’t state the facts
but could taste the story.

Let me tell you a story:


In another life my daughter will speak
with her tongue, be a wife,
say My name is Eavan, I do,
I do not like them with a fox,

will kiss a boy on the mouth,
will fall, will fill a boy’s eyes
with her eyes, her mother’s French eyes,
sleepy, almost always moving toward this kiss.


In another life, judging by their names,
(listen to their names)
Fox Mulder and Dana Scully
could have been rodeo lovers—
one calf-roper, the other, barrel racer.
But here they were each week, one believer,
one doubter, both traveling toward the same
afflicted podunk town in some brown sedan.
So often, they looked at each other
as purely as the U.S. looks at Canada.
Then they looked away.


Out of the mouth proceed
both cursing and blessing,
both lie and utter truth,
and one late fall, in the thick of sweeps,
another episode at the edge
of the millennium, near the end
of seven seasons, we wanted nothing more
than the kiss between the two.
I wanted a French kiss.