Penn Kemp

The technical term for a typical type
of forgetting: the image that squats

on tip of tongue, resolutely refusing
to release the word we know so well.

The name you know like the back of
your hand slides off the tongue down

the little red lane, lands in a splash
of acid reflex not to be regurgitated whole.

O, how to put together what
springs to mind. What pops up.

The tongue worries the hole where
the tooth once was, where the name

is still, somewhere, lurking on tippy
toes tongue-tied unwilling or able

to announce itself boldly, skirting
the premises, hiding behind the molar

column next door. I know you are
there. Nicky knocky nine doors.

You’re It. Flit. And you drown in
saliva, the flood onslaught of

thought to catch you by, word
association won’t work now. What

will? Begging, beseeching?

My paralyzed tongue cannot wrap
itself round a nickname in the vernacular.

An image beckons, nameless
but it’s the name on the tip you want.