Tongue Bits by Mary Long

Cheese by Fabio Sassi
Cheese by Fabio Sassi

Tongue Bits
Sometimes bits of tongues litter the work floor. You’d think we’d have developed a system of trimming that doesn’t result in such a mess, but we are experienced, we do the best that we can, and none have yet improved upon the method.
Sometimes, the bits of tongues that litter the floor have a little talk left in them, and they arch or twist about. Sounds, some wet, most crusted-over, flap up to our ears. I used to hear a lot of Mother Mommy Mama noises until I transferred to the foreign division.
Sometimes, bits of tongues that flop around the floor end up lodged in the treads of my boots and I don’t notice until I am home. Though they are still company property, those bits I pry out and put down the garbage disposal. No one, so far, has complained.
Sometimes at night my tongue lays fat and bloated and semi-secure in my mouth, luxurious against my teeth, so whole I am filled with the excess of it.
Sometimes my children ask me if I will ever get day shift again, so I can be with them during the nights, in the mornings before school. Their sandwiches are soggy the next day because I make them too early, they say. They miss me, they say. I put full-fleshed arms around them, blow raspberries at them. This means I’m sorry. This means I love you. This means, please, let us talk about anything. I would love to talk to you. I nod as their mouths stutter school and fights and friendships and new expressions.
Sometimes bits of tongues that litter the floor at work sound like, in the languages I don’t know but can’t help but begin to understand over time, thickly-coated questions about children. When I hear them, I hum, tip of tongue pressed to back of teeth. No one answers the bits of tongues that litter the floor at work.
Sometimes I whisper in my bed while the children are at school, their sandwiches made and in their lunchboxes from the evening before. I cannot wake up from my dreams and eat sandwiches. I whisper to myself that the floors of bits of ears at work can no more hear than bits of tongues that litter the floors can speak.
Sometimes when the children misbehave and I hear about it, in the time when they are home from school and before I make sandwiches and leave for work, I pry their tongues from between their lips and hang on until saliva leaks from the corners of their mouths, down to the floor, and their eyes leak, and they say nothing, and there’s nothing to be said, and when all the urge of to be said has leaked away I let go to grab an ear and tow it, child attached, to its bed, where it stays, no backtalk.
Sometimes bits of mud litter the floor when I get home in the mornings, the children having pulled their boots on in the entryway, and I lay down among the mud bits, pushing them all together, straining for the sounds of the children and what they say when they are unafraid, and struggling with my tongue against my teeth, an ear to the floor, bits of mud in my fingers, thinking how to make them more and always afraid.
Mary Alice Long: See her work in Loud Zoo. Hear it on No Extra Words.
Fabio Sassi makes photos and acrylics using tiny objects and what is considered to have no worth by the mainstream. Fabio lives and works in Bologna, Italy. His work can be viewed at

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