Native Tongue ~ a poem by Leanne Talavera

“Dragonfly” by Édouard Manet

Native is the color of my American tongue. The color of ashen 
moon dust, crisp with pink around the edges. When I kiss with it,

love with it, it tastes of toasted coconut. It moves with the precision of a 
steered carabao. With the force of a bush knife cutting through sugar cane. 

And when I speak with it, I speak softly. As soft as a grain of rice, 
or the monsoon muds beneath my feet. Every word as soft as

the threads from the mountains. As intricately woven together as
the patterns on their looms. When my tongue sings, it’s the sound of

callused fingers, plucking at the strings of a Spanish guitar. The sound of
evening winds carrying the serenades of clustered palm leaves. Of

dragonflies humming lullabies from beneath the bamboo houses. But 
when it apologizes. When it seeks to be forgiven. My tongue 

collapses, like the death of a faraway star. And no matter how much it 
bleeds, it will continue to burn. Burn with the heat of a whitened core. 

Leanne Talavera is a graduate of Literary Studies and History from New York University Abu Dhabi. Having grown up in Papua New Guinea until she was a teenager, she now resides in her home country, the Philippines. As someone who has spent many years of her life living in the Philippine diaspora, she has a habit of thinking about the meaning of home and belonging.


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