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Raj Arumugam


the tongue poems


tongue poems (the complete text of 3 poems in the tongue poems series)
text © 2009, Raj Arumugam





sing you, I command you
of the tongue







sing you of the tongue




sing you, commanded the voice,
sing you,
O one of million insipid poets
lost at websites;
sing you of the tongue


who’s that? I said
pretty sure
the effects of an overdose of paracetamol
could not linger for so long


O you inglorious cyberspace versifier
tied to praise and strokes
of fellow-weaklings at poetry sites
sing you, I command you
of the tongue


excuse me, I replied,
living in a democracy
I don’t take directions like that…
besides I’m vegetarian
and I couldn’t possibly sing
in good conscience
about delicacies like cow tongues
and pig tongues and taco de lengua
or duck tongues
or ox tails for that matter…
besides, I queried,
who the hell are you?


ah, said the voice
I am your muse
that your modern world has banished;
by me all tongues move in eloquence
and all tongues are born and prosper
and therefore I command you
sing you of the tongue


but why me?
I asked,
unable to resist a cliche


because you are a weakling,
came the firm and quick reply


all right, but sing like how? I said,
unwilling to dispute with this voice
and quite convinced a lunatic
ventriloquist was around
(though talking to myself
I wondered if I too was not insane)
like, how should I sing?
like:
O I sing of the tongue supple and delicate…
or
of the tongue I sing
and its exploits
in battlefields and in boardrooms
and in bedrooms…
how do you like those beginnings?


you imbecile!
declared the throaty voice;
your generation of vipers
imitate the ancients
and yet you know nothing of the muse that
moves tongues;
do not presume to ask me how you should sing
for I know only how to command
and therefore I command you,
you weakling underdog:
Sing
you of the tongue!


and so I started
and composed there
three poems on the red human tongue
and I confess I cheated
for lack of inspiration
and so I included this as number one.










< br>the confessions of John Tongue


1
I, John Tongue,
I have a confession to make:
I have an obsession -
an obsession with tongues;
not ox tongues like when you gather to dine
but tongues, actual human tongues in speech;
human mouths in their cave homes
like beasts in their lair



2
you see, when people speak
I sit before them
and am fascinated by their tongues;
I might listen to you, for instance,
and your words fly over my head
sometimes your spit in my face
but my eyes are fixed
on the tongue
that lies trapped in your mouth
and that darts in and out of your mouth
and that shows between your teeth
if you have some



3
I am obsessed I confess
and I sit like a Peeping Tom
waiting for a sight
of this most private muscle
that may suddenly burst out of the mouth
like a solar flare;
and I wait for a laugh
and the person throws the head back
and the jaws are open and the
sacred tongue is laid bare
for all the world to see
and that is a heavenly vision to me
a revelation, a miracle
equal to seeing an angel
or a Great Religious Leader
in a bullet-proof batmobile



4
and I love watching the news too
not so much to know what has transpired
but to observe the tongue of the newsreader
though some are very miserly with their show of their tongues;
but many have taken up this profession, it would seem,
to make a national or international show of their lingua;
and so you might well understand
I love TV too where all sorts of people
with all kinds of tongues
(that is, fat and thick and thin tongues
white, pale, gray, and red and pink and sickly tongues
red-carpet tongues and dusty dirty tongues)
make it their profession to tease me
with a display or concealment of their tongues;
and the cinema I love too
for similar reasons
and of course especially for the larger-than-life vision it offers
of the most glorious human tongue;
and though you might well imagine
I would hate the telephone
for I cannot see the tongue
you’d be quite wrong
for this is an opportunity for me to
exercise my very vivid imagination
for I can still visualize the tongue
in all its manifestations
and Oh, I love the telephone
for it puts the human tongue so Oh, Oh, close to my ear



5
ah, these then are some of the joys of the tongue
and this my obsession
but when we next meet
don’t please be so conscious
of your tongue
jumping up like a frog
from the floor of your mouth
and venturing into the world through your teeth
as you speak
for I may not look
to determine what endangered species
resides within your mouth;
but I might have shifted my attention
to perhaps your diction
and enunciation
listening for crispness and clarity
and poking fun at any peculiarity,
so just relax, speak-publish, and be damned!

…but then, I may still be stuck in obsession on the tongue…







tongue tale



1
when I was six
just before I left my village in India
for the last time
my five-year-old girlfriend
and I huddled together in the cow-shed
and she whispered gently into my ears:
I shall miss your tongue
in my mouth;
keep it fresh with a tongue-cleaner
till you return
for we must have again
our tongues in each other’s mouth


2
now I wonder
where she is
for though I’ve never been back to my village or to India
and have retained our village tradition
of a tongue kept clean, sharp and supple
with the use of a tongue-wiper,
my informants tell me
she’s not in the village
nor does anyone know what happened to her family;
perhaps, I wonder, if she is lost amongst the millions
in Mumbai or in Delhi
or perhaps she too was set adrift
in the Indian diaspora
and is perhaps now in the UK, or the US
or even in some remote European country
or perhaps as close to me as the next state Down Under



3
and sometimes too as I recall her tongue in my mouth
I wonder with jealousy what foreign tongue she explores now
or what foreign tongue now resides in her mouth
or perhaps she is tongue-tied now
for she might have lost all her teeth;
but still I desire one day
to meet my tongue-friend from my childhood
and perhaps when we meet
we will greet each other with our tongues in each other’s mouth
and if our spouses rage or try and pull us apart;
I’ll explain
(after they have pulled tongues apart, if they can)
that this is an old and sacred village custom
this putting of tongues in one another’s mouth
and could they please excuse us
as we put our tongues in each other’s mouth as often as we like
for this way we do our part
to preserve a very ancient village culture
and tradition that is firmly within
and only meant for those of the remote village I was born in;
and could they just stand and watch -
no wagging tongues, please -
and thank you very much…






tongue poems (the complete text of 3 poems in the tongue poems series)
text © 2009, Raj Arumugam

Submitted: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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  • Rookie - 0 Points Kesav Easwaran (10/13/2009 9:50:00 PM)

    Tounges galore...interesting RA...though your write took some tounge er.. (a slip of the toungue you know) some patience out of me...you are one among the most sensible poets of the nonsense type...the most red-tongued i believe!
    You never care ratings as i do...so i leave it out there...thanks (Report) Reply

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