Tongue Ring

Lorna was in the cereal aisle, examining 
brands of granola, with the same 
plump hands and topaz ring I remembered
from ten years of sharing an office. 

Her blue eyes rose beneath short red bangs,
blocking my chance to push my cart past
someone else I had not seen since it happened.

Did she notice something off in my quiet questions:
Your grandson? Your daughter? Your garden?
A reversal of our office relationship 
when I unloaded daily, every gory detail, 
from family fights to bouts of bowel disease.

Did she think it odd that I mentioned
only my oldest child, not my youngest?

The words wouldn’t leave my mouth, 
as if they were attached to my tongue 
and letting them go would require 
sticking out a red piece of flesh
no one wants to see.  

So we said goodbye, leaving the headstone
in the cemetery down the street—
the very reason I was in this neighborhood,
shopping at her grocery—still hidden 
inside my mouth, like a tongue ring
only I knew was there.

Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks,  Field Trip to the Museum, (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press.  Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Glass,  Beltway Poetry, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Gargoyle,  and Connecticut River Review. She is also the author of forty books for young readers. Visit her online at