Search this website

A Gnashing of Teeth RSS

A Gnashing of Teeth

26 April, 2020: A Gnashing of Teeth

Read a Poem

A Gnashing of Teeth

by Mitch James

When the boy pointed to the crystalline sky of onyx
with no moon
and asked
with a horseshoe smile
“Dad, what are all those stars made of?”
his father
who couldn’t remember a night sky so clear in the boy’s lifetime
the boy asked
smile fading.
“Teeth,” the father confirmed
“for eating.”
“For eating what?”
“Everything,” he told the son
who had a mother dying of cancer
the son
who had a bent-backed coal-lung father
owner of the pickaxe
and mortgage that buried them all.
The man realized
at the boy’s fleeting smile
he only wanted to believe in something not filthy and cold
something not humid and dank in the summer
something not just a small hunk of meat and bread and broth
something not the wheeze of a match-stick mother
who cried when she thought nobody could hear
something not him
who said to his only son
that the universe was teeth
a mouth
gnashing teeth.
“But past the teeth” said the man
“is heaven
not too hot
not too cold
nobody gets sick
and money doesn’t matter.”
The boy smiled
yet said with conviction
“But we have to make it past the teeth?”
“Yes,” said the man
“first we have to make it past the teeth.”
“A Gnashing of Teeth,” by Mitch James, from Shelia-Na-Gig. July 2017. Used by permission of the author.
Mitch James was born and raised in Central Illinois, where he received a BA in English from Eastern Illinois University. He received a Master’s in Literature and a Ph.D. in Composition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He’s had fiction and poetry published in Decomp, Underground Voices, Kill Author, Digital Americana and Blue Earth Review, among others. Recently, James’s chapbook of fiction The Cut Worm was released by Underground Voices Press, and his short story, “What Floats, What Sinks” was released with Calliope Magazine. Mitch lives in northeast Ohio, where he’s an Assistant Professor at Lakeland Community College. Find more of his work at

Write a Poem

Write a poem about a place from your childhood that no longer exists: a hardware store, a Lawson’s, a field, a house, a country…

"Fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride."
I made many visits here in my youth.
Up the hill...
School trips.
Family outings.
Even fun times with friends.
Rides, a water park, eventually a "SeaWorld-like" component; it had everything.
That brief hanging moment before the drop.
But now, it's a graveyard.
The feeling of weightlessness as you plummet towards the earth.
No more carnival games.
A quick loop-de-loop at the bottom of the fall.
No more wave pools.
A curve to the left.
No more marine animals.
A curve to the right.
No more convenient
- only a 20-minute drive! - and fun ways to spend the summer.
All that's left are parking lots and weedy fairgrounds.
Through a dark tunnel - say "Cheese!"
They finally took the highway exit signs down.
A jerk forward as the brakes slam to a quick stop.
I hear they want to build a mega supermarket in its place.
"Thank you for riding with us. Please exit to your right."
4/27/2020 12:08:45 AM

Santosh Kalhan
The house that does not exist

That house that was a home
It no longer exists
That place full of laughter,
Love and wonderful tastes
It no longer exists
The squabbling with siblings
The disagreements at times
The pictures we treasured 
The dogs we loved and petted
They no longer exist
Taken by the mob, the rioters
And the fires they lit
But those beautiful memories
They exist to this day
Those beautiful memories they are here to stay
No fires or rioters can
Take those beloved memories away.

Santosh April 26th
4/26/2020 11:09:23 AM

N. K. Hasen
Borders Bookstore

I walked its aisles with gleeful happiness
Books lined upon their shelves for me find
Too many books to explore and buy
This was where I got my first chapter books
Where I could get lost for hours
Where once I had own car
I could drive down whenever I wanted
Where I was sad when it went out business
Cause eBooks where growing with popularity
Where I would find new books to read
Or new genre which peaked my interest
It’s not the same browsing for books online
Or reading eBooks you can not feel
I miss close relationship with books
The feel, the hearing of a page turn
Adding books to pile to buy
At least there is one physical bookstore
But not same without Borders being around
4/26/2020 10:06:37 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.