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Montague  
John Montague
b. 1929

"A Grafted Tongue"

 

          (Dumb,
bloodied, the severed
head now chokes to
speak another tongue

          As in
a long suppressed dream,
some stuttering garb-
led ordeal of my own)

          An Irish
child weeps at school
repeating its English.
After each mistake

          The master
gouges another mark
on the tally stick
hung about its neck

          Like a bell
on a cow, a hobble
on a straying goat.
To slur and stumble

          In shame
the altered syllables
of your own name:
to stray sadly home

          And find
the turf-cured width
of your parents' hearth
growing slowly alien:

          In cabin
and field, they still
speak the old tongue.
You may greet no one.

          To grow
a second tongue, as
harsh a humiliation
as twice to be born.

          Decades later
that child's grandchild's
speech stumbles over lost
syllables of an old order.

 

© John Montague
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POETS Main Page INDEX of Poets INDEX of Titles & First Lines "The Back Page"