“Eggtooth” [by Jesse Nathan]

Jesse Nathan Bicycle in Henderson


        Whose bread I eat, his note I sound.


   And so at last John Donne’s ghost spoke. Leaned up

out of my book and nearly bit me.

   “Seven,” he says, “sponsors creation but

also vice. Three (and four) holy, but three

       marks the rooster’s count.” His face

          was gold, pounded thin. “I say

       use me like an eggtooth, break


   the shell that shields you, let me be the germ,

hoarder-of-calcium, the bulb of sharp

   caruncle, expression of beak (of horn)

fashioning a toothlet to snout-thrust, barb

       to barb what’s cracking away

          by the very thing maintained

       and encased. Enamel glaze


   grades the puncturer’s tool. Draw the breath

by drawing the hole. Use my imbalanced

   device, half-medieval, to shuck frank death

as you surge with goodbye. As you fast

       and breathe and pay,

          supposing the face a blade

       sustained to sing and to fly.”


Ed. note: Jesse Nathan is a lecturer in the English department at Berkeley. “Eggtooth” was published in Harvard Review Online, June 23, 2021.


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