Northwords Now

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Have You Lost Your Tongue?

by Karen Lesley MacDonald

Yes miss, the cat took it.
      The cat took my tongue,
                   ran away with it
       long before I was born.
     On field after battlefield
           it took a licking until beat.
      It was hung out to dry, in tatters
on the edge
      of a clattering cliff.
      The sheep on one side of the wall,
me silent on the other.
          I was pushed and pushed
until my feet were wet.
          I had to learn how to fish,
        sink or swim.

In school my father
    was taught  how not to speak.
   But I remember
how it appeared in a swear  
        or a tune hummed under breath.
How he unwrapped it gently back North
visiting the old lady.
      Always in her shawl by the fire.
Tea and Pan Drops.
He offered it to old Colin along the road.
   It flew between them like a songbird.
He volleyed it with mischief
at his sister, at his brothers.
          It ricocheted off the old walls
      over my head and out the door.
                   I ran to catch it
         but too late, much too late.

The Board and Editor of Northwords Now acknowledge support from Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
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