The 2River View 20.3 (Spring 2016)

James Valvis

Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

A good set of teeth.
That’s what matters.
White, straight, tight.
Don’t kid yourself, kid.
What really matters
is you have a nice mouth,
your breath is berry sweet,
teeth aren’t buck or brown,
and you can smile the smile
they want you to smile.
If not, you can trot out of here,
mosey on down the road, kid,
and find yourself to a dentist
for a set of false teeth.
Nobody minds if you’re fake.
Phony is fine if phony is pretty.
So be a phony pretty pony.
That’s what I’m saying.
Because if you are, kid,
you may even be good enough
for them to accept your gift.

The Weakest Link

Later, the weakest link hears it again:
whispering and snide sideways laughter.
Next day, working, he struggles to bear
weight other links endure without trouble.
He says nothing but his straining exposes him.
Some mock. No one offers help.
Only he knows every day he’s holding on
with his last strength, each enjoined hand
pulling him apart like the King’s horses
would their very worst traitors.
Most are happy in chains.
They enjoy holding hands, and to them
interlocking arms are friendship.
The weakest link feels nothing like this.
All the chain’s weight finds him.
Their grip on him never loosens.
He feels he will snap any moment,
scattering the half holding his left hand
and the half holding his right,
each half preferring their world shatter
than allow one link to break free.

James Valvis has placed poems in Arts & Letters, Nimrod, Ploughshares, River Styx, Southern Indiana Review, The Sun, and Verse Daily. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle. contact

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