On Keeping Silent
The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue
among our members, that it defileth the whole body,
—James 3:6 KJV
Moongleam smoldered over the dash
on my mouth low-slung with age. Wit
spent, I still sometimes prayed to mute
glow, disc of impossible grasp.
Time had dulled speech’s sprawl—
tamed me into small talk, slowed fervor
by the twine of routines. Church leaders
warned: a woman is a sack of potatoes,
sack o’shit, sack of sorrys if she speaks out
of turn, so to temper speech I imagined
strung moon stones stuffed into every
I tried simple to start. Seashore::for
Saturday::& Sabbath:: for Sunday. & every
month, the moon waned gracefully, never
made a noise. Coy hiding behind another
righteous cloud. Always returning with
her sideways smirk of a martyred saint.
I have tried most of my life to be more
grateful. If I had been born centuries ago,
an iron muzzle may have been needed
to teach, or a scold’s bridle: a bit to fit
into my mouth, & compress sound. Hush.
Quiet. The moon is merciful because
it can only reflect another’s light, because
it knows there are so many ways to train
a mind to mind its own disobedient tongue::
Rebecca Irene's poems are published or forthcoming in Spillway, Parentheses Journal, RHINO, Carve, Juked, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. She was named the 2020 Monson Arts: MWPA Poetry Fellow. Poetry Editor for The Maine Review, Rebecca holds an MFA from VCFA, and lives in Portland, Maine. Find her online at www.rebeccairene.com or tweeting @cicadacomplex.