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Luci Shaw

What James Didn't Say About the Tongue

That it is almost prehensile, a pink
muscle manipulating morsels of fruit, of slander.
That you can feel it, right now, tensing
in your mouth as it scans the possibilities of tang.
That it probes with equal avidity the cavity left
where the filling fell out, and the heart
of the olivetoying with its little flag of pimiento.
That it obsesses over the sharp edge
of a chipped tooth or a canker in the cheek.
That it is aggressive in the sinuous frenzy
of a kiss, and athletic in its efforts to read beyond
the lips to nose, to chin, or narrow to a little
snake head of pure investigation. Restless,
a blind, amphibious animal, ceaselessly
testing the limits of its porcelain cage,
cunning in shaping breath into word: half-truth
or proverb, benediction or blight.
As original as Eden. As unmanageable.

Luci Shaw's most recent collection is Water Lines: New and Selected Poems (Eerdmans).

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