Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

Black Teeth



O, the right words come
but I ain’t talkin
Magnolia Electric Company

For my silence I was given a tongue of thorns.

In the town named for hunters

I was an outsider who never fired a gun

and went lightheaded at the sight

of my own blood. When I bought

amphetamines and oxy from Jason

or some other classmate scraping

together a life on minimum wage,

I met them afterhours in the parking lots

of the gated communities

they’d never been allowed to enter

except to keep the lawns green through winter.

I thought the suicides I read about

in the paper changed whenever I said the names,

from ink into the closed wings and curved beaks

of crows I watched each day

beside the arched entryway of a cemetery.

One of the town’s churches

overlooked the deals; a line

of pines removed years ago by the congregation

to build a daycare and an office

used to collect canned goods and lightly worn

garments to distribute up in the hollers

and at the 24-hour clinic.

In my absence not much changes.

Down in the valley you can spend all afternoon

with a two-gallon bucket

picking apples and drinking hot cider

on the hillside orchard, or you can stand

on an iron footbridge and inhale the mist

rising from the base of a dam

and see how across the pond

the water through the January oak

is whiter than snow, colder.

The sun is low. A truck with warped rotors

brakes somewhere along Tamarac,

maybe stopping for a herd of deer—a grouse—

the whistle of metal

is like skin sliding along a bed sheet. The blue jays

head south again—the sky irrevocable.

I know my fate is incomplete.



Matthew Wimberley grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is the author of two collections of poetry, “All the Great Territories” (SIU, 2020), winner of the 2018 Crab Orchard Poetry Series First Book award, and “Daniel Boone’s Window” (LSU, 2020) selected by Dave Smith for the Southern Messenger Poetry series. Winner of the 2015 William Matthews Prize from the Asheville Poetry Review, his work was selected by Mary Szybist for the 2016 Best New Poets Anthology and his writing has appeared most recently in the Poem-a-Day series from the Academy of American Poets. Wimberley received his MFA from NYU where he worked with children at St. Mary’s Hospital as a Starworks Fellow. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC.

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