Shark’s Teeth and Saltwater by Katie McClendon


Let’s say there is a shark,

salivating sea salt for the taste of

splintered wood and bone.


You are bone centered and blood thick on the rickety bow of a ship.


It is not a hefty bottomed floating thing,

but more of a small sailing ship,

tipping to the slant of waves crashing.


You are storm centered and swiftly slipping from the edge of that ship.


Feel the cruiser rope skidding

against the skin of your palm.


Feel the salt air stinging

the space between your teeth.





the boat

is a mouth

and you are

a secret.


(A secret looks that looks something like this:)


When I was small, I imagined a boy.


He showed up as a bell

rang across an emptying

kindergarten playground.

We were alone. He put my

words in his mouth, chewed

them, swallowed.


Years later, I remembered how

the playground was always so empty,

the windows of the school too small,

showing only hanging holes too bright

to be the moon. I remembered how

the school was always a bedroom.


(A secret looks that looks something like this:)


There are windows that look in

on men like jellyfish: mouths hidden, tentacles

splayed and stinging, stretching the length

of beds they should not occupy,

bodies clanging like bells.


There are wives that look in and

see their men with children,

like fish, flapping dryly on

a sandpaper shore.


There are sharks that circle in the

ocean. You can see them if you

throw open the window, if you lean

out far enough to smell salt and blood.


(you are a silver window frame/you are not the way his body shook)


In a police station there is a dollhouse.

In the dollhouse is a family.

In the family there is a girl who gets

picked up in a closed fist and

whisked through each room.


In each room there is a missing wall

where the girl watches like anything

might happen, like the small window

above the false bed might swing wide

to something other than a hollow wall,

might swing wide to the night, let in

the sound of waves without teeth,

lapping against a needy shore.

Katie McClendon is a queer poet and short story writer with a degree in English from the University of Washington. She teaches a fiction classes in Seattle and has work published in The Bent Anthology, Mare Nostrum, Yes, Poetry, and Ante Review.