Wisdom Teeth

for Peter

An image of The Potato Eaters 

we hunched over steaming bowls, 

awash in the glow of our efforts, 

stirring root vegetables and

crunching on salt. Listening  


To the slow tick of the clock, 

to the soft brush of socks, 

to the gentle wailing of the sea. 

Neither of us understands 

why the broth tastes of mussels. 




My wisdom teeth are coming through 

and I feel inclined to say something wise. 


Something like “What art needs is an acceptance

of what’s muddled and confused in us.


What’s broken by our lives and by living.” 

But that’s not what I said. 




I leaf through a furiously annotated copy

of Eliot’s Selected Poems. As expected, 

The Waste Land got it worst. 

You tell me your uncle was an English teacher 

who drank himself to death. 


In Ars Poetica Horace refers to 

the death of Empedocles,

who threw himself into a volcano, 

and admits poets the right 

to destroy themselves. 


When I first read The Waste Land 

I wanted to throw myself into a volcano. 




My wisdom teeth form as 

new pearls in the diadem 

of my jaw. Quite soon 


Our conversation reveals 

that four chin hairs between us

do not equate to wisdom’s beard. 


Outside the sea continues her song 

while our un-tuned ears wait 

for Revelation. 


I strain to read the riddles of the sand—  

letters on the shore’s cerebrum.

Josh McCune is a writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He holds an BA in English and Philosophy from QUB and an MSC in Literature & Modernity from the University of Edinburgh. His influences include (but are in no way limited to) Frank Ormsby, Michael Longley, Gail McConnell, Wallace Stevens, Edwin Morgan, and Mary Ruefle. He is almost entirely edible and loves a good pair of trousers. This is his first publication.