Barbara Ungar – Your Mother Serves Tongue

How could you
put another creature’s tongue
into your mouth? How could you
bite, chew, swallow?

Cannibal. Obscene.
How could you
tell the difference

between a cow’s tongue and its delicious
rump? How could you tell
the difference between
a cow’s tongue and your own?

Our tongues could speak.
The poor cow’s couldn’t—
how it ended up on the supper table.

But could a young girl speak?
Smile, men said. Cat got
your tongue? Who
had swallowed yours? No one

had attacked you yet
or even exposed himself
yet you already knew

the tale of Philomel
endlessly repeating like DNA
enfolded within that mute slab,
the unspeakable on a platter

on the table of white Formica
speckled with gold. Your mother
urging you, Try just one bite.


from Save Our Ship (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2019)
Poem selected by Emilia Mirazchiyska, series’ editor