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"Before I Bite, I’ll Say This" by Valentina Rivera-Lies

Updated: Apr 6

Like my mother, I was born with teeth––smoothed stones for shredding bones that sink deeply, fixed neatly, into bleeding gums.

It was a fastidious jaw that she leant me.

Like my teeth from jaw’s meat, I, too, erupted–– emerging from her tissue, from her sore and ripe muscle.

Perturbed but pristine and before him, me.

Before him, yes. But for him? No, for I am her and me and mine and ours but never his, whether he can open his mouth or not. What strength? I can assure you, afterall. Unlike him, I was born with teeth like my mother.

Like a martyr, I materialized. From density, I formed. See, here, what floats. See, here, what sinks. See, here, packed sand and broken shells and sunken ships at the bottom of the sea. And from the bottom of the sea, me. And from me, you––and like your mother, you too were born with teeth. You and I, we come from a storming surge––a deep breath into salted lungs she twists from coral, and a collapse she traces from moss. From moss? Our flesh, our hair, our beauty. Our power? From shifting sums of earth. From the earth, wet and protruding bones of ridge and boulder.

And from my mother, a fastidious jaw, and a collection of eroding granite teeth.

These teeth, to him, are hideous. But for me and her and us, he sees a purpose. Of our own, we have many. And of those, I’ll tell you three. You and I, we keep time, count scars, and dislodge, with sharp tongues, grains of crystal from the bloody cracks between our teeth.

Like my mother, we were born choking and heaving and chewing. Chewing what? Not what, but who. Chewing who? Not you, but you. See, here, my mother. See, here, my daughter. See how they chew. They chew him and any other man that seeks violence in purpose.

And as for me? Like my mother, I chew you.

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