restricted access Fable of the Tongue Bitten by the Teeth, and Ballad of the Walking Woman
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Fable of the Tongue Bitten by the Teeth, and Ballad of the Walking Woman

Fable of the Tongue Bitten by the Teeth

What we swallow, the salt letters, their blood-metal linger. So others name your quiet for you: stone heart,quicksilver. At ten, I called it brave, furrowed isolate at the funeral, watching their long buckle and wail. The wrenched guardrail where his car went over the bank was like a letter torn out of a word. Its rusted ascension a question my broken mother averted. Her gray eyes locketed, empty rooms. But look at the stars, I wanted to say, on the late drive home, as if they were proof, unfixed and apart. Yet still we tether them into pictures. You haveonly yourself was the counsel I kept, logic already my aegis. I’d dream myself floating high above my bed while the stars went on writing whatever stories they wanted. Mourning the only song singing us to sleep. [End Page 158]

Ballad of the Walking Woman

Roving warp of remember, raveled weft of forget, this burden I’ve carried, the burden I set at the roadside each nightfall

that’s left to me. Cleft from me. Waking, I’ll sing it behind me, what’s left of me. Walking, I’ll sing it away into nothing. Into nothing

I’ll carry it up the mountain and back. Each day that turns me returns me to my burden, the nothing that he left me to carry. [End Page 159]

Debra Allbery

Debra Allbery’s most recent poetry collection is Fimbul-Winter (Four Way Books, 2010). She lives near Asheville, North Carolina, and is the director of the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers.