"There was an early superstition that if the bird's
tongue were split at the tip with a silver sixpence
ground to a knife edge, then it would talk better."
— The British Library
Boy slinks in bare feet & dirty XXL t-shirt
down boat ramp greased with green slime,
steadying on his father's ghost of elbow.
Cold water gropes up past calves & knees,
swallows his briefs with a gasp. Boy's legs haloed
in minnows suckling at the soft fuzz of his thighs.
Boy's father slaps palm to chest. Boy pinches
nose shut, takes slug of hot air, & is pushed
under. Boy holds his eyes open against the veins
of shifting silt & backlit fish-shit, watches as clots
of clean breath rise & rupture on the surface,
pure particles of boy swimming away into sky.
Boy waits for the heavy-breath sinner in his chest
to flatline, prays for a swift, surgical slice of holy
light. Boy wants to come out of another body
of water, wants gash of sky, hemorrhaged
with tenderness. Boy surfaces with no name
to muted clouds, to dove with split tongue:
to myth, old wives' tale, to senseless violence,
a scissored muscle that still won't say a word.
Recently, what I've been interested in probing in my poetry is the way that brutality can lie alongside beauty in the things that are most important to us as humans — things like spirituality & sexuality & family. It seems that the holier the thing, the sharper its teeth are. This poem is part of a series of poems exploring, among other things, how religion can complicate our identities — whether that identity is a gay man, a gay man's mother, a child with a disability, or a teenager who has experienced trauma — while attempting to deconstruct the Christian religion's rituals & myths to excavate the beauty & brutality lying underneath.