Tongue Ties



tongue is another hand i have

to caress, write and grope through our hominan loves

utterances of streets, tea cups of unkind leaves, winding words

only to say the signs as one says them unbound

those signs that never betrayed us

even when my bi(lingual) fingers typed

names, a name, the names of all that we know and forget


or verbs that’ll walk alone without a care

aashi? or, aashi. we return (even come back). old.



did they not say whistling was language too

the wind through your tongue

the lips in cohesion for the vowels to ejaculate

the sound free and homeless

but it’s love that makes us seek out false truths

like news of sounds traveling far and wide

sound that clusters in the tiffin shop in nacharam

where the men crowd around pictures

of garish women in glossy prints on the walls

they pour the chutney after the fingers touch the brine

and their own sweat or semen drying in the sun

you say seeds, i say words

all words we scatter in our minds


i’ve never lived in a village but have

spoken the way they have

you(folks) go to pondside for a dump

they(folks) please to mind their bottoms from being pinched

we(folks) curl up sleep in our love-made sheets

who goes out? ties of the tongue, alone.

this is not a village but we all love slumber after rice

because in that village of my mother and other-mothers

everyone speaks as though we were grown in

like suffixes to be chewed out with paan

Nabina Das, a 2012 Charles Wallace Fellow, University of Stirling, UK, and a 2012 Sangam House Fiction Fellow, has a poetry collection Into the Migrant City (Writers Workshop, Kolkata; cited one of the best readings of 2015) and a short fiction collection The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped (LiFi Publications, Delhi). Published widely nationally and internationally, her debut poetry collection Blue Vessel(Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark) was listed as one of best of 2012 and her first novel Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, Delhi) was longlisted for the Vodafone-Crossword awards 2011. A 2011 Rutgers University MFA, a 2007 Joan Jakobson (Wesleyan University) and a Julio Lobo fiction scholar (Lesley University), and a journalist and mediaperson for about 10 years, Nabina teaches Creative Writing in classrooms and workshops.

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