Topography of a Tongue

 

 

I stick out my 10-centimeter 60-gram movable mass second-grader style and flinch: Robitussin cherry cough syrup color and cracked. Back when I wore pigtails and bows, I screeched gross! at the sight of my mother inspecting her own tongue. She shrugged, said skedaddle. Now middle- aged, mine, too, resembles volcanic rock. A long, indented line snakes down its center with smaller ones angling off to the sides like complex sentence diagrams. When I ask my husband to peek, he shrieks ew! though he has lovingly lick-kissed that tissue for twenty-eight years. Lights out, I stew about my tingling organ. Is it normal? Last year, my far-from-normal writing student who never held back from telling her truth died of tongue cancer. At the dentist, I open wide. She prods, proclaims aha, a geography tongue! Exotic images flash: mountains and oceans, world maps, spinning globes. In bed, it calls me Atlas: do you hold up the heavens with grace or bear its burden?

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