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The Brewing Storm is a Quiet Strong

Audrey L. Reyes

How anger earthquakes across teeth; there is a devastation

cracking fillers open. This filthy, filthy mouth filed

thin to mottled edges. Woman promises the dentist

she’ll get in touch; she doesn’t. Woman promises

her lover she’ll be better, less critical, and more

patient. But she isn't—at least, not yet. It’s hard

to unlearn what you’ve been fed. The dinner table is thick

with insults and grime to feast on. Lick the fucking plate clean.

Woman’s parents used to dress up each mouthful of fury

like airplanes landing on the strip of her tongue. They were

always too salty—even starvation didn’t dare accept prayer.

What a pity to take pity in your own filth, filth. Could we install

a water filter on the tap? Could you get the roof fixed?  The owner says

no and bathes Woman’s tongue with tar-thick coffee to keep her

from begging. How dare she ask for better? What they serve for

dinner is a gift to be thankful for. Because they say so, now

you do, too. On Woman’s way out, file her teeth dry and

padlock her mouth shy of a week. The last dentist

told Woman her gums bled from all the worlds she carried down

her neck. Woman’s then masseuse, a kindly blind lady, told her to

keep coming back each week to free the ghosts

making bed across her shoulders. She came ‘round and round and

came ‘round, until she didn’t. But Woman still wonders how she

is doing. If her tired hands are still as soft and well-meaning. If

she still gets to play music on her days off like she used to

for an audience she doesn't know if she pleases. It’s been hard

to get near anyone. All these deaths sure keep tabs on distance.

Last night, when Woman’s lower teeth shook in anger, it was

the closeness that got to her. Can we fucking get out

of the hell that this year has lit alive? This hard swallow is frozen

down Woman’s throat. A stout kettle, burned black, shrieking and

shrieking; the stove bore a hole across the base, too hard a swallow.

Woman’s body is boiling pressure to keep her mouth kind, kinder.

About the Author

Audrey L. Reyes (she/her) is a Filipino poet, writer, and former early childhood educator whose favorite workplace activity is raising hell. Her work appears or is forthcoming in QUINCE Magazine, NECTAR, Anti-Heroin Chic, and several other literary magazines. She resides in Manila, Philippines.

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