Maria Terrone: “Speaking in Tongues”


He sits across from me on the train and because

custom demands that no eyes meet, I gaze

at his feet, then the tongue of his left, thrust shoe—

a worker’s heavy, sturdy shoe with its thick, stiff tongue

rising high from frayed and splattered laces, the tongue

that must make way each morning for the calloused foot,

and pushed back unpaid-overtime-hours later

to release the swollen foot. The tongue

that lies close to cement, steel beams, the earth,

above the worn-down sole that lives even closer.

When the doors open at the factory stop,

another man enters, and he too wears battered,

dusty boots. But his are restless, tapping and grinding

into the floor as if the machine still lived within.

Maria Terrone is the author of the poetry collections Eye to Eye (Bordighera Press); A Secret Room in Fall (McGovern Prize, Ashland Poetry Press) and The Bodies We Were Loaned, plus a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Hudson Review, Poetry Daily, and in more than 25 anthologies. Since 2015, she has been poetry editor of the journal Italian Americana. Bordighera Press published At Home in the New World, her first collection of creative nonfiction, in 2018.

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