A Poem by Jennifer L. Knox

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

Certainty Is Born of Pain

Biting down wrong would’ve done it.
Too many chips scarfed at happy hour.
Don Cucos’ two buck margaritas, 4–6.
I’ve never been big on chewing. I more like
chomp-chomp-chomp-gulp — a Hoover.
Maybe I’m trying to power through the meal
to the empty place on the other side where I can
stuff more in, no subtleties of pleasure slowing
me down. A komodo dragon unhinges its jaw
to swallow whole sick pigs and dozing deer.
Afterwards, it sleeps weeks as the prey’s shape
dissipates into its guts like the face on a melting coin.
I envy its contentment — or whatever you call it.
So who knows why, when I was nineteen, I got that
horribly swollen taste bud worthy of an ER visit,
but I do know when I cut it off with toenail clippers
it bled for days — hurt way worse — my tongue
needed a cast — and now when people speak
of piercing their tongues, I know I know
too much to follow them there.

Jennifer L. Knox’s poems have has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review and four times in the Best American Poetry series. Her new book, Days of Shame and Failure, is forthcoming from Bloof Books in 2015.

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.