The five elderly speakers of Yuchi
in Oklahoma call themselves
Tsoyaha— “Children of the Sun,”
but their time sets
and with it, their words lapse
alongside Amazonian Oro Win,
Arctic Ter Sami, and pre-Neolithic Jeru.
Whose nuance knew the push-pull
of a lemon quarter squeezed
over kalamata olives and albacore?
Each final voice
becomes a stiff Cassandra, slowing
in cadence, scaly in timbre.
Who will think to carve diction
into stone? to ossify
the tongue for slower erosion?
The Thao of Taiwan, ancestors of Polynesia,
settled the shores of Sun Moon Lake
long before sending their children
into the rising sun.
Tongues, like so many fishes
from a bleached reef;
I know where they were
and scavenge among the bones.
[This poem was written after I read the non-fiction book, 1000 Languages by Peter K. Austin.]
[Check out other original poems here.]