Mystery

by Luke Otley

I wanted to write simply
words that made sense, persistent
as grime under fingernails, or ingrained
as dirt in callouses of hands,

somewhere, somewhere,
mothers must still scrape down
stained wood washboards,
that morsel’s stuck
in past’s back molars
I’m sure.

And Future is of course a toothpick,
sharp and pragmatic and no nonsense;
Future swells with pain like a rising tide
at the slightest mis-probe,
at the smallest, spongy mis-step into gum.

The growth pangs of path-finding puncture
us all until we learn
to soak our wounds
in salt and water,
stick to harder, safer ground.

O enamel, you’re the hardest stuff we’ve got
and still you chip so easily,
what can we do but shuffle on

with our jaws locked and our teeth grit
against life’s great mystery?