JANE
WONG

Jane Wong's work appears in places such as Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, American Poetry Review, Agni, Poetry, Third Coast, McSweeney's, Black Warrior Review, Ecotone, The Georgia Review, The Common, Shenandoah and This is the Place: Women Writing About Home. A Kundiman fellow, she’s received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships/residencies from the U.S. Fulbright Program, Artist Trust, the Fine Arts Work Center, Willapa Bay AiR, Hedgebrook, the Jentel Foundation, and the Mineral School. She is the author of Overpour from Action Books, and How to Not Be Afraid of Everything, forthcoming from Alice James in 2021.

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BECAUSE I AM AFRAID OF DENTISTS

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       I look it up on my phone “lock jaw left
side mouth” and scroll through photo
                after photo of people who look
like they chomped straight through
        the ivory grit of a deer skull. Yes,
that was my first thought. Why bite
                something so hard it knocks off
your dearest mechanism,
        hurling a train off its track, headed for
the trees? It’s been years since I’ve gnashed
                a crab claw, hollowing through
shell. I vowed to chew
        slowly, to masticate
matronly. I stopped swallowing fish bones
                 like flaming swords. Stopped gnawing globes
of slick avocado pits. Now,
        lopsided, drooling through


the pines of my teeth, I
                        hinge off. Move my jaw up and down              side to side, like an ice skater cutting
    shoals of grief. Click, click – the tiny gears

of my jaw rusted, loose bolts
                 spewing a junkyard. When
the Bad One locked me out of the apartment, I tried
        prying it open with a butter
knife. When I locked eyes with
                the Disappearing One, I was wearing
an asymmetrical gala apple
                       dress. My jaw
anchored in an awful
                sea. “Stress and anxiety are common” (leaking
proof, % of gaslighting) “causes of muscle” (a hummingbird
                               spasms awake) "tension”. I
hate the dentist, this stupid website, the ads
        popping dandelions with miniscule
x’s to exit, hate that I am back here,
                               again. Click
click, goes my body, the wind-up chattering

               joke teeth. Shouldn’t I know,

better? I try to call
        my breath back, little pet

boa constrictor, volcanic belly
                        ballooning left, “Asian Americans report fewer”
(lock grin and bare jaw) “mental health
                conditions,” left to
fester too long. Prehistoric ferns

        of this Bad One and this Bad One and this Bad One and this
bad jaw, dangling scythe or
                           sickle moon sick. Because I am afraid

of dentists, because I am afraid

        I turn my phone off, hurl

some poor dried slug drool

                         off my mouth-corner. Flop into

this poem, plead to this
        “clenched” (something inside of me,
yolked) body: enough. Enough – I

                               hear you howling

CARRY WHAT YOU KNOW

TO LOOSEN THE WEIGHT OF WHAT YOU DON'T

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This morning, I heaved the clatter                                                                      of pots and pans, each with a steaming

lid for some other vessel of seasoned                                                   healing. Was it morning? All dew and daffodils

loosening? Ants singing                                               along a melted lollipop? Yes, the tide?

The purple starfish waving                                                                         hello? No, the shades shuttered

in. The windows                                                                                                           closed like a fist in fitful sleep.

Empty

parking lots, otherworldly                                      luminosity. Coda. This morning, I heaved the splintered hum

of crickets in a whirring field, lugged                                                                each syrupy song. Was it

a song? What my grandparents                                       sang in the hollow of hunger? Yes, ginger scented

memory? Fear of what we can not                                                                         touch. Now, wrinkles along the brow,

a calligraphy too close to                                                                coda. This morning, I

heaved one leg and then the other.                                                            Still here, still walking past rows of bolted

garlic, tender sky, a reminder. Coda carried                                                        over.    I           some other vessel

                                                                                healing                                                     loosening

the tide            waving                luminosity                   Co                   Heaved hum

                                                      each song sang what we can not                                                          Still here, still

a reminder                           this morning                            was it

                                                                                                           memory? Touch?

Too close to                                  past                                                                                Tender reminder carried over

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