Two Native Tongues

by Taleen Mardirossian

My tongue belongs to two lovers. I spend
my days with one, my nights with the other.
One is older, much older, much wiser.
He’s had fewer lovers, so I am careful
not to lose him. I wear his poetry
on my lips, his dances in my feet.
He’s a wanderer, a traveler–
always leaving but never gone.
Yet still, I look for him
everywhere I go.
He’s kept the tragic stories of my past.
He understands parts of me I haven’t yet understood.

With the other one, the younger one, we spend
our days together. He’s simple and understanding.
He’s never disappointed since he expects nothing from me.
He knows me, but not all of me.
He doesn’t understand my fears and desires,
just fulfills my daily needs.
He’s safe. He promises a future, a lifetime of opportunities.
Unlike the other who offers no such thing.
Of course, my lovers know of each other.
The younger one doesn’t mind, the older one
sees that I need to share my tongue
and he’ll forgive me as long as I don’t forget him.

They inhabit the same space, sometimes at the same time.
Sometimes the two of them slip past my lips together.
Sometimes they complete each other’s sentences.
Sometimes they confuse one another, sometimes they exhaust me.
Sometimes I threaten to leave them both,
tired of a mistress’s life.
The older one needs me to commit to him.
The younger one watches, listens, and says nothing,
knowing he’s the one I could never live without.
But on cold nights, when my lips are chapped, my mouth dry,
it’s the older man’s spine I crawl to,
it’s his voice that whispers down my throat.

 

Artist: Amrit Brar

Taleen Mardirossian is writing a collection of essays while pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University, where she also teaches undergraduate writing. She was raised in Armenian and English.