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by Jessica Khailo

I chew 36-grit sandpaper

to feel just like the ocean.

I’m bad at having teeth.


My job to stop the children

gnawing bones and batteries.

No salt lick in the yard


melts down like my enamel

with flecks of things once sweet.

So bad at having teeth that I


forget I even have them,

ground down to the nerves

and clenched even as I’m sleeping.


Too hard in my softening head.

Fuse the gums; stop the bleed.

I’m bad at having teeth.


If it’s caustic enough,

if it bubbles, I drink it.

My mouth can break ice.


It can pinken the basin,

find iron filings in boggy soil.

So bad at having teeth that I


simply can’t remember

when I last lied to a dentist

about my flossing habits


but nothing hurts about them

and, mostly, they look clean.

I’m bad at having teeth


and I only want to keep them

so my tongue has something solid

to stop it flopping toward my chin


and, I suppose, if I’m starving,

I’ve a tongue that I can eat,

but I’m so bad at having teeth


it probably wouldn’t matter.

I fear my bite too much and think

that’s proof I am not rabid,


not enough, at least, to tear

what weeps and pleads.

I’m bad at having teeth.

(*This poem was first published in Heathentide Orphans 2023, by Zoetic Press)

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