from edentata

Naieka Raj
i hear them eating,
<confesses grandecho>
the strangers on screen,
volume upped till life:
crunch on my tongue. <again
she’d become noise
i’m unable to grasp, holey
portraits strung around her neck
of pale women with invisible bites,
vacuum between lips>
blow your nose, <she spits>
stop crying. thirty-two minutes
& we couldn’t feel a thing. <is that
a metaphor? did she really let
husband remove her teeth?
did we really deserve independence?
since 1947 family bleeds
tradition, grandecho: plucked
clean as chicken>
thirty-two minutes later
i couldn’t feel a thing, <she

counts> thirty-two
loops of mint line. thumb
pulling, plunging
anesthetic down drool puddles.
to enamel smoked out, autoclaved,
he says: we can’t eat your odor,
these recipes. at the capital
here all smiles are white &
all mouths cavities.
we iced our gums on pips.
tucked them under tongues still pink,
barely sixteen, humming orchards
sweet & dense like daughters
who can’t feed. <from the couch,
mother wipes organic fruit pulp
off her chin> hear me? <echo
asks> will you chew a little closer?
<sound of bone meeting skin:
mother’s inelegant mouth tearing
what it wants & spitting the rest> eateat,
i’ll pick them fresh next
morning <sounds grandecho
behind porcelain rows picketed
upon husband’s return
to backwater> no beauty
in that protrusion,
so i am made this.
you break porcelain, not jawed wire-
tight for weeks, dull primal screams.
you are not made <she means thank god>
<she means> stay ugly,
don’t spit your teeth <is that
a metaphor?> let my pip’s
fattened, unswallowed haunt
string around your neck.
eateat, <echo urges> loud
enough to sound alive. you:
ugly & only your self <last
edentata echoes> eateat, <& only
for selves: i gulp>

Visual Art: Ashley Teamer, Perfect Love Cast Out All Fear, 2021, photographic inkjet print, thread, handmade paper, 4 x 8 inches.