Kami Westhoff's work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Meridian, Phoebe, Third Coast, Carve, Sundog Lit, decomp, Prism Review, The Pinch, Redivider, and Passages North. She teaches Creative Writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.
Elizabeth Vignali is an optician and writer in Bellingham, Washington. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Willow Springs, Crab Creek Review, Natural Bridge, Nimrod, and Menacing Hedge. Her chapbook, Object Permanence, is available from Finishing Line Press.
S T A R S I ' L L N E V E R S E E
Feel sorry for yourself, tongueless fish,
but know this: you are free as I am not.
You river through schools
of threadfin jack and sanddabs
and gesticulating fingers
of blue seagrass. You watch
the moon with your tarnished eye.
My life is spent within
your slick glistening. A poor
stand-in for muscle and taste,
the stunt double
for a dumb organ.
My mother always said
You can be whatever you want
when you grow up,
as long as it’s a tongue.
A parasite must find wonders
in the small.
The syncopation of saltwater
and blood, the red-denned
oriental carpet mapped across
your mouthfloor. High above
my small head, your white bones
vault in cathedral arches,
Gothic arrows that point
toward stars I’ll never see.
K A M I W E S T H O F F A N D E L I Z A B E T H V I G N A L I
H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
O N C E W E W E R E U S
It is true that I feared you before I knew you.
I’d heard of your slick-gilled entry, migration
to tongue once your body matured, the pain
that leaves one speechless. But you were as subtle
as oxygen when I breathed you in, and the clawed
clench that coaxed blood from my tongue
more suggestion than demand. And once it was gone,
your body rooted in the gut of my throat, relief.
Imagine graphing the topography of tongue
from the fleshy arch of the pallet, craving texture
instead of taste, understanding the dimension of flesh,
muscle, and bone only by its resistance and surrender
to the tip of the teeth.
I know you will leave me soon. Maybe you’ll slip
into the sea, rest among the slick fins of eelgrass.
Or retreat into the pit of my stomach,
where you’ll disintegrate into my last supper.
It doesn’t matter which. Once we were us
we could never be anything but.
I will swim along, tongueless, ignore the silver flick
of lives waiting to be ended, starve in slow motion,
until the sea surfaces me into a flash of pale
for the sky to swallow.
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