December 10, 2009


by Lyn Lifshin

she never told me not to let any
one inside, or that I, like women
in Tibet, who once stuck theirs
out as a greeting for others,
should learn to keep it inside,
sheltered. But the idea of
putting a man inside my
mouth, close to my tongue,

was more than she could
stomach. My mother, who let
me read Snows of Kilimanjaro
when my friend’s mother would
not, wasn’t a prude, but thought
that keeping as much from a man
would just make him want you.
Licking chocolate was one

thing, but to put something you
didn’t know where it had been
in your mouth, that was too much.
We had tongue for dinner, that
huge blubbery shape much bigger
than any penis. In her last weeks
my mother craved tongue, not fat,
not too lean but thinly sliced. In our
house, we never held our tongues:
words were razors: slut, liar,
vicious, stupid,
were hurled
down the hall like fists or straps.
My mother and I battled, it was
as if we had a body of tongues
stuck out at each other until any
place on our bodies was a mouth

so sore nothing could save us
but to stop each other’s mouth
with a long kiss


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