Poetry | Beauty on the devil’s tongue

By Anna Fischer, Senior Staff Columnist

The whispers tongued into my head since birth

have a metallic taste. The left side tastes like blood

and the right side tastes like chlorine and no one

ever taught me how to swim. 


“I’m right-handed,” I tell people, “but left-eared.” 

They never know quite what to make 

of that, and I wonder if 

I’m the only one hearing things.


The only form of anastomosing my meager

cerebral hemispheres engage in these days 

is when I force my mirror-wielding right arm across my chest,

so my left side has a better view. A dextral death is 

obvious even to the near-sighted octogenarian, but

my left eye is not blind, just narcissistic. She will

not acknowledge her sickly sister, and,


to my better half —

neither will I.


“My left side is my good side,” I tell the 

funeral director, arranging the water-lilies on my

casket. “Please,” I beg him, “do not let my mother

take photos from the right.”


“Don’t look at my right hand,” I tell my

lover, “My middle finger is permanently

crooked from writing poetry. I’m an

addict, you know. My left side is

my good side.”


“Is that what I look like to you?” The mirrored

image of a ghastly right-sided girl taunts.

I am on the brink of tears. Inverted, unfamiliar,

ugly. “Please flip that photo, my left side is 

my good side,” I beg I beg I beg.


Words hand-fed by whispers, masticated

and regurgitated by my own mouth, not 

borne of my own mind, blubbering sialoquent

speech. I try, I try, I try to tell my right side that 

I know how she feels:



But my left molars clamp down on my tongue,

and I can never find the right words

and she wouldn’t believe me anyway because

our sinistral sister has dragged us


down from grace.


If then you have been raised with Christ,

seek the things that are above, where

Christ is, seated








The right side whisper tastes of chlorine and

no one ever taught me how to swim. But I am so

tired of drinking my own blood, and my halves

are no longer consanguineous; 

my right side is withering away.

“Help me,” the words tumble out of the left side

of my mouth. 



Left tongues speak to left ears, and the Devil always

weaves his words with a striking thread of verisimilitude.

“You are beautiful, darling,” he crows from his perch on my

left shoulder. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”


But I am not beautiful. I am a half-beauty, which is the

same as a half-anathema, and half doesn’t count for much

when you’re wholly condemned to hell.


I can no longer hear the angelic whispers, my starboard

guide finally drowned in an ocean of

blood. The otolaryngologist tells me she’s very sorry

but I appear to have gone deaf 

in my right ear. “It’s alright,” I shrug,

“My left side is my good side anyway.”

Anna Fischer writes about female empowerment, literature and art. She’s really into bagels. Write to her at [email protected].