She leads me to tongues
Abolition blow up gun lisping hissing puckering at the sunday blues straight to monday blues
Loaf of red lipstick gathering our speeches of bloodshed of doomed ledge of risk left
to pout in the meddling hesitation and then the soul trapped in one family for generations decides against its arrow going I still have the note he passed me
etched into my skin soft dent of window eyes that jump like wind eyes that isolate the moment for an eternity yanking you into it begging you back to life
Returning now to how it feels when you’re a kid and the pimps come back to the neighborhood in furs and cadillacs acting out our enemies’ fantasies
Copyright © 2021 by Harmony Holiday. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“The idea of ‘speaking in tongues’ as if possessed by a sacred unintelligibility is surrounded by religious lore, as if such a state of divine witnessing only happens in those environments. What if a vast segment of our communication is held festering in the subconscious to haunt us simply because we privilege mundane logic and decorum in our speech? What domestic traumas or excitements ‘lead us to tongues’ or free-spirited testimony that we never indulge? This poem is guided by those questions and moves with them, in order to reach one clear image and revel in it. I think ‘tongues’ might be a black form, the way ‘stream of consciousness’ is a known mainstream literary device. In the case of this poem, I was also referring to how quickly buzzwords like ‘abolition’ are displaced from their first intentions and gentrified by sensibilities and industries that sell concepts without much regard for the people who inspire them and need them. How can we code our speech to make it impervious to appropriation? How do we keep words and ideas meaningful and true and personal when they are tossed around for clout all the time?”