3 Poems

Jess Rizkallah

my other mouth

i don’t know what sort of music my other mouth likes
or what it knows how to whistle.
im not sure we can harmonize.
we don’t even talk.
just meet by the moon sometimes.
writhe because it tells me so
without actually telling me so
it just shows me: tangerines on fire.
a burnt persimmon. the color of the scent
of the sound of broken flesh.

& my uterus a tongue. its breath all fever dream.
my crossed legs a deadbolt. a clenched windchime.
i am shedding three months worth of lining
and the fine sand of what used to be glass teeth
ripe from the angriest jaw.
these bones fit for a nest of gum and fingernails.
always snaps shut before the murder hatches.

i’m never too torn up, even when i am,
but i already know what i’d name all of them. every one.

still, i grind my teeth down to nothing while i sleep
i do this in more ways than one
i swallow the wrong potions
i thank the shadows on my wall
right before i yell at them.

don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, they say
like this purge is always a gift.
like this sea is all salt flowing out of a wound,
and never just dead, never just wound.

once, as a child, i woke up before anyone else in the house:
looked out the window to find the yard covered in crows.
every blade of grass. every tree branch.
my mother’s car. no clouds. no sun.
no witnesses. just black feathers.
just beaks aimed at the sky. all of them still.
then at once, all of them gone.
a thousand crow salute bursting
from my mouth if i let it.
no not that mouth.
the mouth i don’t like.
the mouth i don’t want to believe.
the only mouth anyone believes
even when i don’t let it speak.


1.      take a taxi to the sun
2.      give every individual hair on your body their name. every day, pull out one hair. repeat until you are completely hairless.
2.      pour honey on yourself. say “i love you, honey” again and again while doing it. again. “i love you, honey.”       honey is good. honey is nice. honey loves you and will always be there to make your body a cavity it fills itself with. this is not erosion.
                        don’t call it what it is. call it honeycomb. call it love.
3.      now bees. crawling all over your body. little kisses. don’t move. even when it tickles. you are part of something special here. even when it hurts. you are part of something special.
                        this is what happens when we don’t call it what it is.
4.       now move. be devoured. consumed. etc. picked clean, bone dry, foaming mouth,
      4a. lie down and scream.
5.      go to the ocean. keep screaming. scream into the ocean. with the ocean. never at the ocean, this part is important. never let it know you are there. it remembers everything & has no time for your shit, so eventually you need to stop screaming.
6.      when coming to shore & recovering from the layered sting your body has become, pass a group of kids playing football on the beach – kindly request they punt it directly into your chest.
7.      go back to the ocean. always go back to the ocean. it still doesn’t care & it’s still screaming & it will never care & it will always be screaming, but you were starting to feel significant again. don’t do that.
8.       always be screaming. always be pulling at hair. always be on fire but never carry any lighters. never inhale the smoke love blows through its ass, but always breathe.
9.      and then stop.
10.      and then start, even when someone punts a football into your chest.
      remind yourself that you’re not actually the ocean.
      you’re not a body of water, but you do have a body.
      that doesn’t actually matter, but knowing you can churn and spit does.
             you will always be naming parts of yourself after other people
            & you won’t remember where you put them

one of these days here’s what i’ll do:

i’ll enjoy a cap’n jazz song
maybe listen to it more than once and a half
Ooh Do I Love You, it tells me, and one of these days
I’ll love you a little less   

i’ll sprout a brooklyn
in my trachea       car honk alarms
and bicycle tires where my legs
“where my legs what?”       they always ask me this
why? just     where my legs, like
where they are, that’s it
that’s all

one day i’ll hear certain names and not feel
my organs drop into my butt to get away
from my chest like when you
swallow grand pianos to be
all whale songs and less gut

i’m trying to be a whale because of course i am
the one that swallowed us once, stored us
behind the steinway of its teeth
let us choose the notes, let us play its jaw
way past happy hour, we stayed for years and
all the krill gone home

i want to be home to more barnacles
and less skin condition

all so i don’t have to look at eyelashes sideways
and notice their length like mine and identical
skin around our ears like we shoved the same stories
there lives ago
when we were somewhere in the desert,
how the heat fuses the flesh together
to create one people leaking saltwater,
or desperation, or some other form of love

about the west flicking its loosies
and us running to the rhythm of colonialism
ashes ashes     fall down get up    and i’m still leaking
and you take your coffee much thinner now

the way that makes my insides hate me
ruins the sonic plumbing, the pipes of me
one of these days i’ll find us washed up:

sidewalk on boylston st    keys smashed,
right near the parking meter with the
hippo sticker, faded url, an old mattress pad
out of tune where my heart
where my heart where? just where it is that’s it
that’s all

Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American writer, illustrator, and coffee slinger living in Boston. She edits Maps For Teeth magazine and publishes zines and chapbooks at pizza pi press. Her work has recently appeared in Word Riot, Electric Cereal, Nailed Magazine, Alien Mouth and on her mother’s fridge. Talk to her about whales & find her on Facebook.