Each tooth grinds to fit its partner.
In my valley, centuries of wheat
spilled soil to reveal boulders
fanged by the dirt-trickle of rain—
is it violence, the hare in coyote jaws?
Through another’s mouth
each life ends in transmutation.
At the dentist, I learn to call
my child’s teeth deciduous—
like oaks ready to shed.
Through crops of vultures,
Zoroastrians seek transcendence.
To the Romans os est os—
the mouth is a bone.
I worry I won’t satisfy
whatever hunger claims me.
But like the bite mark above my ankle
and the toddler’s matching smile,
wounds appear as sheaths
to the weapons that made them.
Andrew Payton is a writer, teacher, learning designer, and climate advocate living in Harrisonburg, Virginia with his partner and children. His work is featured or forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere, and won the James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review. He is a graduate of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University and teaches at Eastern Mennonite University.
Artwork: “So You Can Be Comfortable” by Ava Bergen