Jaw Bone

by Paige Gilchrist

Largest, strongest, lowest bone
in the skull, you’re an ossified vault
carved with holes for holding teeth.
Your clench is the cause of the slow
gravel-grind at night. By day, heavy
lever that crushes and eats. You’re
what’s left when the butcher hacks
away jowls and cheeks. In a sperm
whale you could hold three human
bodies in your hull. In a rat, you’re
the shape of the dull curved blade
of a paring knife—with enough force
to chew through asbestos sheets.

Biblical deserts you know. The drought
and the death of them. A donkey jaw’s
bleached remains made Cain’s club
to kill Abel. An ocean away, gentler hands
dug deep to clean your tissues, laid you
in the sun to dry. Then they gripped
your thick white chin—and shook.

When we meet that bone-chime rattle
of you. Rhythmic scrape of stick against rasp
of you, and sound our voices to the sky,
you’re the ancient hinge on which we howl
and sing.

Paige Gilchrist lives in Asheville, North Carolina. After years in nonfiction publishing, she now teaches the movement and meditation practices of yoga and is a devoted Great Smokies Writing Program participant. Her work has been featured in Kakalak and in past issues of The Great Smokies Review.