She leads me to tongues

Speak easy    

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.

About this Poem

“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?”
Harmony Holiday