Mother Tongue
by Liam McKee

I had a wish, to vanish into another language,
man turned fish, plunging, argent.
Which language? Any -- French, Turkish --
as long as I left behind the homely,
flat words of childhood.

during which nothing was really said --
except after midnight, and that was hieroglyphic:
my mother, naked, streaking in the beam
of my father's headlight; the burned children
in the medical book she delighted
in touring, photographed with somber scientific
intent against white screens.

How long could I have blamed dreaming,
or taken repose in the orderly circles of the day,
when my body was sending up its flares?
a bare patch above the ear, a rash creeping
below my hairline, the importunate moan
of jutting bone. Dispatches in dog pitch.
Across my pale brow, the unsighted map of livid terrain.

I watched the days pass as through the window of a train --
all lines led back to the country of night,
where storms were tracked in the shrill of laughter,
where to watch a stack of plates melting in the oven
was to listen to the wild lovesong of my people.

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