“An Unhinged Jaw” grew from a single, compelling image. Walking in the woods one morning, I heard what I believed to be a bird, chirping. It was not typical birdsong, but rhythmic and steady. As I drew closer I saw that it was a toad chirping in the jaws of a snake. From my angle it looked as if the two creatures had become one strange new species.
As I began to write, I decided replacing the toad with a blue jay would offer more metaphorical possibility. When I shared this with Ali she suggested I resurrect the toad. I was reluctant to let the jay go. I often struggle with wanting to make a poem mean what I’ve decided it should, rather than allowing it to unfold. I had decided that the new creature was a metaphor for the creative process and a bird seemed the obvious choice. But Ali was right. Resurrecting the toad, in all its warty glory, resulted in a richer and more complex poem.
Laura Maloney lives in Madison, Mississippi, with her husband and children. She holds an MA in Spanish from Middlebury College and is currently studying with the poet Jon Davis. This is her first published poem.