The scholarship award includes both €1,500 and mentorship by the UCC Writer-in-residence (who this year is Lisa Harding), as well as scheduled performances at the Eoin Murray Annual Tribute Night (in August) and in a School of English & Digital Humanities event in the autumn semester.
Again we offer our sincere congratulations to Freyja and we look forward to her performance at the Tribute Night in August. Below is Freyja's submitted piece, the very visceral, evocative and imaginative, Wisdom Teeth.
She is growing her new teeth to make up for the lack of love. They won’t fit in her mouth when they finally blooms, but for now new bone peeks shyly out of old gums, painful and tiny.
She can’t see them, only feel them with the flexed tip of her tongue. She attributes to the intruding teeth the status of near personhood.
My wisdom teeth, she thinks almost fondly, even as they ache along the jaw, into the temple.
Where she lives there is a Circle K, a Centra, a pub she never goes into, and a GAA club. It is just her and her budding wisdom teeth, thinking of love.
I have this body, she tells the teeth, and what to do with it?
Today she has done the shopping with it.
The kitchen is barren and filthy, grains of old rice on top of older dirt, the empty fridge humming like a huge fly in the silence.
The big kitchen window is streaky and smudged with the gooey remains of insects. She can see through it to where there is a man standing in the hedgerows at the end of her garden.
Man is a strong word.
He looks more like a human toad standing upright. Even so she is compelled to call it man, though a man would be a much worse thing here.
“Fuck,” she says to herself, unsettled in the kitchen. He beckons, casually.
She’s not sure what to do about it though, afraid to go out to him. She has no one to call.
He’s still staring. Blinks slowly when they make eye contact.
“Am I crazy? Has that happened? I’ve surely lost it.”
But she hasn’t and she knows that.
He lets out a long tongue, catches something out of the air. Looks at her all the while. Waves her over again.
“Fuck it. Alright. Fine. Fine.”
She takes the best knife out of the drawer. Thinks of hiding it but it’s too big to do that well, so she just holds it firm in her right hand. It makes him smile, derisive.
A lot of men she knows smile like that, so she isn’t too bothered by it.
“Sofia. Sweetheart,” he croaks when she gets near him.
“Darling,” he tries again when she doesn’t answer.
“Why are you in my garden?”
The knife held in front of her now.
“Well, what makes it your garden? The fence?” He snorts. “This is my land.”
Sofia’s not sure what to do with that. She bought the house, the garden came with it. This is her land.
But the land’s been here since before she was, will be after. Maybe he’s part of the land, in a way she isn’t. He looks it, dark green and bumpy.
“I’ll be on it when I like,” he pronounces, haughty like he’s far above her nonsense.
“You asked me to come out here,” she accuses him instead of continuing it.
“Well, I suppose it is your land. But I’d like to live on it.”
Her garden is not very big. There is no far-away place she can send him down the end of it.
It’s misty today, the fine silver damp blanketing itself over the mix of greens, long grass and darker bush. He fits in much better than her. She still doesn’t want him there.
He sees the reluctance in the way she twists up her mouth, isn’t brave enough to try to get rid of him.
“I’ll give you something for it.”
“Like what?” she asks, cringes at herself.
He’s got her, then. The tongue comes out again, so there’s a pause before he answers.
“I’m able for anything. I can give you whatever you’re wishing for.”
The reason she believes it is that he’s a four-foot-tall toad man. She wouldn’t otherwise. Plenty of people say things like that, for different reasons.
“Well,” she tells him. “I’ll have to think it over.”
He knows he really has her. Pleased, he bows.
“By all means, love, have a think. I’ll be out here,” and then he waddles away and plonks himself, three-piece brown tweed suit and all, into an especially big puddle of rainwater in the mushy grass.
When she goes in she locks the door, pulls down all the blinds.
If she had someone to consult or marvel with. But it’s just her, sweating in her sitting room, biting her nails.
The ache of the wisdom teeth throbs all along her jaw, into her eye, temple, nose. Even then, she can only bring herself to hate the pain. She is fond of the teeth.
“This is ridiculous,” she tells herself. “Surely I’m crazy.”
She thinks about calling a doctor for a while, but decides not to based on the fear of getting sent somewhere to be medicated. It is better, she reasons, to be mad and see toadmen then to spend the next few years being fed anti-psychotics by some cunt.
And what can he give her? This toadman at the end of her garden cannot provide her with the money that failing everything else she wants.
There’s a precedent for this sort of thing though. Undeniable, that there’s always been thought to be things, green and tricky, in the rocks and stones of this ancient land.
It is night by the time she gets herself to go out, but only just, that bloodless blue still cast over everything like a woven-lace veil. Trees are huge and opaque in this light, swaying minutely.
He’s there, a squat lumpy shape in the grass. He grins gummily when he sees her, can’t resist darting a slimy tongue out to lick an eyeball.
“What’ll it be, so, my love?”
“When you said you could give me anything, what did you really mean?”
“I am able for anything, darling.”
“If that’s true,” and she’s shaking now, trembling in her legs and arms and deep within her belly.
“I wish for love. I want to love and be loved.”
He’s delighted. Trembles deep in his toad stomach.
“Of course! Not a problem, sweetheart. But you know that’s a big one.”
“Yeah, I know, but.” She’ll be sick, maybe.
“It’s just that I’ll need something extra.”
A hot clench of frustration runs through her.
“My garden’s a pretty big one, too, though, I fucking think.”
“You surely understand that it is easier for you to let me live in your unused garden than for me to conjure you love?”
Intimate with the difficulty of conjuring love, she nods. They listen to the soothing coo of a wood pigeon before she speaks.
“What do you want, then?”
“What do you have?”
This is a question that requires reflection.
Her wisdom teeth, as always, ache.
The bones of many unfortunate animals are precious. Why not so for hers?
“You can have my wisdom teeth.”
“Your wisdom teeth.”
“Yeah. They’re my most special teeth. Not everyone even has them.”
“The garden and your wisdom teeth.”
Rustling in the moment’s silence.
“You’re a very generous woman. You know, most women won’t even talk to me. But here you are.”
“Here I am.”
She feels mostly hope. Fear has slipped her mind with the promise of gifts.
“I’ll have to take them out.”
“Could I not get them taken out and come back?”
“No. Definitely not. That wouldn’t do at all.”
“Oh. Ok, fine.”
“You’ll have to kneel.”
She does, feels the cold damp seep into the knees of her jeans, along the line of her shins.
“Open your mouth.”
Again, she does.
From his waistcoat he takes a pair of black gloves. Puts them on his webbed hands with care and attention.
Her jaw is stiff from holding her mouth open. Drool starts pooling and she’s about to close it and swallow when he sticks a gloved hand in.
Rubbery and alive, twisting over her tongue. Strong, bendy fingers settle around the right-hand tooth and yank. There’s no hesitance – he’s just pulling, like a carrot out of loose earth. The roots of it slowly dislodge, making bloody grooves in the gum. She screams, can’t stop, not until he finally tears it out and waves it at her, a pink-white chunk between index finger and thumb.
She tilts her head down and spits.
“Lovely. Just one more.”
“N-” but he’s in there again, iron grip, like a pair of plyers. She can hear of it, the crunch of it vibrating through her skull.
Screaming again, the sound piercing the evening like the calls of large and unknown birds. The way it gives is almost satisfying, when it comes out in one final pull.
And then she’s left gasping and bleeding in the wet garden.
His gloves are slick and dark, shiny and dripping. He puts the teeth with their vicious roots in the inside breast pocket of his jacket.
The holes in her mouth are pouring and hot. She swallows, reflexively, doesn’t wholly hate the taste.
“You did very well,” and it does make her feel better to hear that. She clears her throat – it bubbles.
“Now I want love.”
“And you have it.”
She waits. Spits. Looks around, the statement confuses her so much.
Gags. Spits again. Sniffs. Wipes her nose on her sleeve.
“Isn’t it fantastic?” He’s gleeful. “I already love you so much.”
Outside things are beginning to end. This landscape slit down its belly like a
mackerel, ready to be devoured.
Why this relationship of predator and prey?
And why, of all things, is it the host we hunger for?
The earth beneath our feet has never looked so
appetizing. We shovel it down our gullets in heaping handfuls
It is rich on the tongue and it weighs us down
The greenery does not grow quick enough for this ritual to be anything other than
catastrophic. The grit between your teeth as you take the action of erosion
In these plague-times we ache and retch and cry out in anguis
Keening for all the footprints lost to the bloodwarm soil
This thirst is never-ending
Is nothing here salvageable? Nothing at all?
It doesn’t have to be sacred to be worthy – I think. I think we could make a home here
If the earth will have us
Don’t raze us, please. Please, don’t salt the ground we stand on.
While there is still ground to stand on
We can still grow: thyme, basil, and parsley