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Kelly McQuain, “Tongue”

Kelly McQuain, “Tongue”

Author: Poetry Editor

February 19, 2014

This week, a poem from Kelly McQuain’s forthcoming Velvet Rodeo, winner of the 2013 BLOOM Poetry Chapbook Prize. 


The tongue I try to master
is a sticky one, forked and full of tricks,

risking collision of sense and nonsense
—recompense for a fractured age.

I am beyond murmuring. Neologisms
abound in your body, and I plan to master

the patois of each part, learn where bones divide
like syllables. Feel my fingers on your ribcage

catching your barrel-chested bellows;
feel my hand against your throat

waiting for words to come. For I calculate
the onomatopoeia of your longing

in all its sibilants and sweet susurration.
Let me hiss it back at you—a viper;

let me lap your words awhile—a vampire.
Too long we have cyphered our desires.

This tongue I try to master is yours, mine,
ours. Speak to me in its unspoken language

as our fingertips brush each other’s beards,
trigger arousal. For I covet the divot

in your chin, the muscled flex of your jaw,
your parting lips, wet, and now revealing

the subtle diastemic divide in your teeth
so faint I have to move even closer to see.

Teach me what lies beneath meaning.
Tell me in your body’s heat, its blood,

its breath, its need—rising now like a
shiver, a stutter, an unuttered word

buried beneath this kiss: first taste
of the tongue I master.


KELLY McQUAIN‘s chapbook, Velvet Rodeo, was recently selected by C. Dale Young for BLOOM’s 2013 poetry award. His poetry has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Assaracus, Mead, Chelsea Station, as well as the anthologies Poems for the Writing and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. His fiction has appeared in Icarus, The James White Review, and in numerous anthologies, including Best American Erotica, Skin & Ink and the Lambda Award-winning Men on Men 2000. His book reviews and columns on city life appear in The Philadelphia Inquirer. McQuain lives and writes in Philadelphia. Visit him at

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About: Poetry Editor

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