Ode to Mouths & A Poem for Roadkill

Ode to Mouths 
River Elizabeth Hall

O dwelling of tongue and taste,
you hot-wet house full of teeth—
little bones borne from bone plugged into bone.
O pliable hole, you slack into horror or
smile on muscle strings.
O bitten tongue taste yourself!
You howler of vowels, you dropper of consonants,
you deliverer of lies.
Tippler of liquor of nectareous fruits,
shout from the palatine roof!
O praise for past mouths!
You suckling things, supplanters of umbilicus
takers of sustenance, apertures of need.
O milkteeth gathered one by one from the gums
in the name of a larger jaw.
Shed for the chewing of impermanence,
for the grinding of adulthood.
O little rootless ones kept in little boxes—
corporeal collections of loss!
You are drilled and filled
and shifted into shape by orthodontic force.
Smoke settles in your creases,
tannins have stolen your white.
Orifice filled to bursting, cracked lips pursing,
you nest for the bulge of tongue,
for the resonance of moan.
O biter of flesh and flora,
mouth searching for another mouth
taking hungers whole.
A Poem for Roadkill
River Elizabeth Hall

What if we pulled over,
got close enough to feel the death-rattle
shake the air against our skin?
Offered regret for getting in the way
with our roads, our tires, our glass?
What if we didn’t abandon them
to the cement until there was nothing
but a dark stain, a rope of hide, a splintered bone?
What if we cupped the dwindling warmth
of the struck bird?
Held it long enough that it cooled in our hands,
shed tears onto the feathers of bent throat and broken wing?
What if we took them to the woods,
an offering given over in kinship with maggot and crow?
What if we took the time to give them to the soil,
death greening life for future living?
What if broken raccoon, stilled possum and lagging deer fawn
were adorned with roadside flowers and grieved?
Piled high by passersby with the dandelion, hawksbeard, red clover
—the beautiful weeds.

River Elizabeth Hall (she/her) is a poet, short fiction writer, and naturalist. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bear Review, Main Street Rag, Nimrod, and Tinderbox, among many others. Her chapbook, Call a Body Home, was a semi-finalist in the 2021 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Competition. She leads generative creative writing workshops through Seattle Writers Circle, an Amherst Writers and Artists inspired community of writers. For more about her writing and other offerings, visit www.RiverElizabethHall.com.

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“A Poem for Roadkill” was originally published in Tinderbox Poetry.

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