You never forget the taste
of throat-blood, specifically—
your lips pressed to living warmth,
your teeth slid slow
into the lush, trembling tide.
Even in boardrooms
stiff with dark suits,
you salivate at a collarbone’s hollow,
the soft arch beneath a jaw—
swallow venom teased from traitorous glands
by sheer imagination.
You are strong
you tell yourself, wetting your lips.
There’s no other way
you could be sitting here,
clawed-up from the miry melee
of mergers, stakeholders, ambition.
Every morning for ten years
you have walked into this room wondering
if this was the day you would break—
and though your palms sweated,
though your throat was a dry scrubland,
you did not reach— it would have been so easy—
to sate that trembling need.
Yet it’s a close thing, even now.
Your mouth is a fault line worn thin.
A soft toss of a head,
a rill of throaty laughter,
and your blown-glass veneer
Phoebe Low is a proud member of the Viable Paradise Class of 2019, and has been previously published in Mithila Review.
Backstory: This poem was inspired by a friend’s toothsome play on the term ‘loan shark,’ certain boardroom scenes in my favorite Asian gangster fantasy, and Max Gladstone’s “A Kiss With Teeth,” among other things. I find it interesting how ‘thirst’ can refer to various kinds of need.
Image credit: Wolf in a suit (lollipopie) and the Halloween wolf (pngtree) as shadow