In the swing of the semester

Okay, finally feel like we’re in the swing of the semester properly, second week in. Getting sick first week = NOT RECOMMENDED.

But I don’t look (or feel) horribly sick anymore, I barely coughed in today’s lecture, and we had a great discussion of Amal El-Mohtar‘s “Biting Tongues” today. They loved the poem, btw. Popular choice! I think if I teach it again, I’d like to pair it with an excerpt from Persepolis, and Carmen Machado‘s “The Husband Stitch” — I was already planning to teach the latter later in the semester, but I think it would work better if I brought it up to pair with this poem. Might also have them listen to / watch the Little Red Riding Hood song from Into the Woods, and read Nalo Hopkinson’s “Riding the Red”.

We also reviewed helpful organizational strategies, like actually LOOKING AT THE SYLLABUS before e-mailing me a question, and PUTTING DUE DATES in your calendar, possibly with a reminder slightly before. So that was hopefully good, and will ease everyone’s stress going forward.

Plus, a student and a colleague both complimented my boots within a single hour (they’re my ‘I wrote a book boots,’ and they are v. fancy (but were on clearance, which made them only somewhat outrageously expensive)), so that was nice.

Double-plus, I really do have a very nice view from my office, even if I have to walk right up to the window to see it properly. Oh, Brutalist architecture — you are challenging to love.

*****

Biting Tongues
BY AMAL EL–MOHTAR

Speak to us in silk, they say
speak to us in milk,
be pillow–soft, be satin–smooth
be home–spun sugar sweet.

We part our lips. We breathe our breaths.
We bite our tongues and swallow blood
knot stones into our stomachs, heave
and spit red salt where words should be,
stitch shut our mouths with stubborn thread
to spare our tablecloths.

Such a mess! If you can’t say something nice,
if you can’t be honey cinnamon spice
if you can’t be dusky–eyed candy mice
shut the fuck up, you stuck–up bitch
you whore you cunt you slag you witch
where you going dressed like that
red as meat and us so hungry?
What did you think would happen, huh?
What did you think would happen?

We are told
of wolves in the world, and we but girls.
We are told
of girls in the world, and they but wolves
who cannot help themselves.
We are told
to be girls or wolves
be eaten or hungry
but we are never hungry
who make meals of ourselves
who chew the insides of our cheeks,
bleed into our bellies.
We are told
that to be bold is to be bled
that red’s what brings the wolves around
that we’re better off drowned.

They come with axes
cut us to pull the good girls out.

They leave us with our bloodstone bellies
our sewn up mouths, our halted breaths,
and a river for a bed.

Until one of us
with sharpest teeth
and shredded mouth
rips silence from our lips
with a battle–cry kiss, and says

We speak as we are
with tongues of snake and hummingbird
of ocean and of earth
of sky and salt and smoke and fire
of gesture, ink, and ringing bells.
We speak as we are
with bodies various as motion
voices of muscle and music and colour
beautiful bloody mouths.

We paint with tumblebroken words
we sing loud with our speaking hands
unmake the bodies shaped for us
and lip to eye to fingertip
we spill our red–mouth stories out
and listen, taste them on the air
with our forked and biting tongues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *