“The most we can say is that
the world is lila, God’s play”
The neighbor-lady’s mad.
They say her name is Lila,
but she always speaks in tongues.
Some days it’s beetles
that come flying off her tongue—
that tongue gray-green and curling
like the fiddlehead of a fern.
They put me in mind of Granny’s jewels
I pawned so long ago, them beetles,
the shine of their hard wings
so many colors in the lamplight.
They rattle loud as hail against the windowpane.
Other times she speaks nothing
but starfish and the house smells
of salt. They scuttle over the sandy floor
and under them wide blue skirts she always wears.
I don’t mind the butterflies—some purple,
and some with wings clear as glass—
but other days her tongue’s like pink elastic
and shoots out teeny frogs bright as sunrise,
only louder. I never know
what she’ll be speaking next—
snakes or peacocks or some great beast
with tawny shoulders and a wild green eye.
It ain’t natural. So I says to her,
I’m moving back to town—
I got to get away from the everlasting
clatter of your tongue. She just throws
back her head and laughs
Earthspeak Magazine 9, Autumn 2011