Coco Huang: ‘Tongueless’

Coco Huang reading ‘Tongueless’

My first tongue I ate myself,

swallowed with 苦泪 

when I said the sky was green, not b(绿)

and they laughed first, then kicked


the moon

has bruises too, 你看 – 

one from hair too short for braids

two from eyes like slits in dough

–and yet it glows,


if only I were as brave

if only I were as pretty


new tongues grow like duckweed

innocuous leaves buoyant, while

sucking roots sip from the deep

how sweetly他 slips to “he”     | 我 slips to “me”


no thanks to my poor gardening

I speak with a stump,

blunt-axed syllabic swings

inflected with self-loathing

why should I speak, when

silence sounds wiser?



eins, zwei, drei

in the silence, I sow and reap

ein Zweig wächst dabei

I coax new tongues to speak

io posso, voglio, devo

but borrowing bears bitter fruit


my tongue is a stranger

a stranger in each tongue; 

wǒ zì jǐ yě bù míng bái

Glossary and Transliterations


苦泪 – kǔ lèi: bitter tears
绿 – lǜ: green
你看 – nǐ kàn: look
多么美丽 – duō me měi lì: how beautiful it is
– tā: he
– wǒ: I/me
wǒ zì jǐ yě bù míng bái – I don’t understand (it) myself


eins, zwei, drei: one, two three
ein Zweig wächst dabei: a branch grows (meanwhile)


io posso, voglio, devo – I can, I want to, I must

Coco X. Huang is a Chinese-Australian writer, musician and scientist. She enjoys reading and writing experimental fiction and poetry and her work has most recently appeared in The Lifted Brow, ARNA, and Hermes. She was a participant in the Citizen Writes Project 2019 and received a 2020 Faber Writing Academy Scholarship. She tweets @cocoxhuang.

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