Skip to content

Love Teeth & Putrefaction

Kate Wright



            In some Korean traditions, wisdom teeth are 
            called “Love Teeth” because they come during 
            adolescence and hurt like a first love.

They come, as if out of nowhere,
edging their way into your life slowly.
First, a tingle, a hum, a buzz that radiates
through the body, settles in odd places:
the stomach, the tongue, the jaw.
Then, an ache. It spreads slowly
at first, infects the eyes, the brain,
the heart. Then, they begin to scream
you can’t live without me with a pang.
They give you a take me away
and you’ll live with a hole,
a missing piece, for the rest of your life
kind of pain. Sometimes you let them
stay, their presence no more a hindrance
than their absence, but most times
you remove them, cut them out
of necessity when they start
to shift, jumble, crowd, demand
too much space—the process
never desired, never easy—
just a steady hand,
some novacaine, a drill, yank,
and an ache worse than before.



My mouth tastes like rot—earthy, fruit-forward—filled
with holes where teeth went missing—pulled
so fast my mouth didn't know
to close itself back up. Now the sockets cram
with what they shouldn't. Packed food particles
mush white, ferment brown, get picked out by hands
pulling at gums, ripping wide, digging—
the copper taste of blood. The night you kissed me,
my damp breath forced over sand-dry tongue, lips
slicked red, the sockets flooded with your saliva,
your germs, the tiny parts of you I still want
to give back. They live in my mouth now,
three months later, the holes still open—
the bitter taste of blood, decay
reminder: some wounds won’t mend. 


Kate Wright received her BA and MA in English from Penn State and MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee, where she has served as the poetry editor for Grist. Kate’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Appalachian Review, The Maine Review, Rogue Agent, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @KateWrightPoet