Talking in Tongues by Frank X Walker

Talking In Tongues
Frank X Walker

we knew to tiptoe quietly
if mama was on the land line
using her full lips to parse out
each syllable, carefully measuring
her words as if they were being
eye-balled and weighed
on the other end

she saved that tongue
for bill collectors and the principal
but if she used it to sound out my
whole name, everyone knew
trouble was coming

the tongue she used for close friends
had sugar on it
was filled with laughter
and warmth and music

when they fell into small circles
made words hold their breath,
change their color and meaning
and forced the rules of English
to take off its good wig
it was not just speech class
it was my first real poetry

Appalachian Heritage
The University of North Carolina Press
Volume 39, Number 4, Fall 2011
p. 14

Talking in Tongues