Poem of the Week | December 14, 2015

This week we offer a new poem by Mary Jo Thompson. Thompson’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the anthologies Best American Poetry and Another and Another: An Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series, and in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Field, Prairie Schooner, Rhino, Indiana Review, Carolina Quarterly, Great River Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and Drunken Boat, among other journals. Poems that appeared in Field and Rhino were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Thompson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Warren Wilson College Program for Writers and teaches arts education in Minneapolis, MN.
Author’s note:

As a child I was taught the danger of touching one’s tongue to a metal pole in the dead of a Minnesota winter, but that didn’t prevent me from trying it on the playground monkey bars at recess one day. Curiosity peeled the tongue. The image of the tongue appears frequently in my work; the literal correlative of that image continues to seek sensation, even when it gets me into trouble.


The Other Self


I was the one who kept on speaking
while the iron pole of winter
was stuck to her tongue.


I watched her pry at the dish of her mouth,
her fingers like bent tines.
The wind cuffed at her, helped her decide
to pull away.


That moment she chose
turned me nearly inside out—her lips
slammed back all red, a bloodwet
roar sent splashing over.


I made a bandage
of some snow,
covered the new skinless place,


though she wished I could offer her something
else: a yellow pear at just the perfect ripeness
or a small peach to take into her smarting
mouth, let drip while she sucked it
down to the stone,


because when she finally spoke again
it was summer.
She remembered few words
of the old language, and predictably,
they were cold.