Father Tongue

Jennifer Kronovet
Each issue of Blade magazine describes a man and how he came to be a person of knives. There are veins of metal in rock and in a family and in one person’s diorama. Some is mined for weaponry, some for language. Some knives are photographed like ladies in a nudie magazine, hovering above place without a human to hold them. Their blades reflect nothing like the back of my mind when I look. Blade at the dining room table, in the bathroom, on the couch, throughout my striated landscape leading to leaving. 

The language of knives includes: quenching, hilt, damascus, hollow ground, skeleton handle, balisong. “Song of Myself” has: loveroot, souse, killing-clothes, chant of dilation, fallen architecture. Whitman was too late to sow me as an orchard for harvesting the hybrid fruits of our thinking. I had held my father’s knives and could feel how they fit him, and he was multitudes to me by being different from himself. Whitman was merely me, but different. I am still waiting for my mind to fit a language the way a knife can fit my hand. I want to wield them together to cut my past down, the opposite of screaming.

More by Jennifer Kronovet

With the Boy, with Myself

He has thoughts he doesn’t
think about. Birds might wake him
but they don’t. My thoughts 
feel like speech—how one animal 
makes nature—until I speak to him.
We use words like a tree uses light: 
there is a process we don’t see but do.

A kid I don’t know hits another
I don’t know. I say stop stop 
to myself. Speech keeps
happening against me. 
The boy wakes to cry.

With the Boy, Outside

Twigs collect 
by the side of the path.

Wild flowers space 
themselves. Pigeons 

respond instantly to being 
chased. The ground rises

to the tree. If I look 
through the boy—to loss, 

to a future, to else—
nothing is enough 

to hold the ground 
into one place. 

This is your foot,
I say. But people don’t 

talk like that. 
I watch people gather 

their faces into 
thoughts I can’t 

hear. This is the space
between us, I say 

while waving my hands 
to make the distance.

On Translation: Celia Dropkin’s “My Hands” (Yiddish)

She had emigrated to New York when she wrote my hands, and I was in New York again again looking at my hands when I typed my hands. She wrote two little bits of my body on the next line. She had children at this point. I typed the words in English on the next line and didn’t have the boy and then did and brought two little bits up to the first line with my hands. In her time, ideas sat on different lines, but in mine—living against being shown where to rest. Is that me now or now? I decided now. 

*

She wrote that hands are two little bits of my body I’m not ashamed to show, and I said that and then said I’m never ashamed to show. Does not mean never? No. Yes. Never makes the positive of the negative happen. I change my changes using the following excuses: I’m more like her now. I’m more like me now. I’m now, and she was explosively then. 

*


She wrote my hands with fingers, like the branches of coral, and I typed that and then later typed With fingers—the branches of coral and went on shaving off the markers of distance to close the thoughts in me. I used to try to hide my strange hands, but now I want to touch everything I can.

*

She wanted to touch some things she probably shouldn’t have. She wrote a word that was impossible to find in any Yiddish dictionary, but was found in a French one. Fingers were like the thoughts of blank question mark are now the thoughts of a nymphomaniac. She reached and reached outside of her tongue so her hands could reach away from her life in words. I typed nymphomaniac as myself and then again as myself as her and met her there reaching toward her hands.

*

My Hands 

My hands, two little bits
of my body I'm never
ashamed to show. With fingers—
the branches of coral,
fingers—two nests
of white serpents,
fingers—the thoughts
of a nymphomaniac.