Poem Number One: I Dream of Teeth

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I Dream of Teeth

 

I dream of teeth
Wobbling in my gums
And wake with my tongue
Caressing each one, counting
Them like children to be sure
They aren’t lost.

My daughter’s teeth remind me
Of a picket fence: white
And straight as posts, her face
A garden of pink roses.
She brushes them with toothpaste
That tastes like strawberries,
Sings the song I taught her
Through a mouthful of bubbles.

I dream of teeth in henges,
Monoliths of bone stuck in the earth,
Mossed over, surrounded
By white and yellow flowers.

My son is losing his teeth early,
Afraid to wiggle them loose
Until adult teeth crowd
And bully them out.
I tell him to bite an apple,
Cup the back of his head
In my palm to guide him,
Hoping the tooth will stick
In the crisp flesh.
It doesn’t.

I dream of teeth
Growing and growing
Teeth too big for the mouth
They live in,
Shark’s teeth,
Rows and rows of them.
Square teeth, serrated
Like knives.
The teeth of some unknown
Monster, looped
On a necklace:
A trophy.

My husband’s teeth are monuments,
Proud and tall, well kept
And cleaned, shining.
You would never know
the molars grind
Through the night, clenching
The world, holding everything
Still until morning.

I dream of teeth fine as a comb’s,
The teeth of a zipper, lining up
In an orderly fashion, the teeth
Of gears, not grinding, but
Fitting perfectly together.

My teeth are mostly missing,
Metal posts standing
Straight in my jawbone. The gaps
Have long been filled but I still wake
In panic, feeling for holes
And the phantom braces,
retainers,
The plastic and rubber banding
That so long held
My mouth together.

I dream of teeth in a glass on my nightstand,
Teeth floating in ether,
Teeth attached to plastic gums.
I dream of teeth pulled from their sockets
And the liver-red flavor of their absence.
I dream of teeth
As crumbling Saltines,
As chiclets in a basket,
Being sold on the streets of Tijuana.
I dream of teeth drilled and chipped,
Teeth gnashing, weeping,
Teeth yellow as tea-stained paper.

Are my grandmother’s teeth buried
Along with her ashes, or were they
Parceled out
Like the rest of her things,
To the relatives who fought
Over the quilt she slept on?

I dream of teeth under my pillow,|
Where they never were
Because my family didn’t believe
In the tooth fairy.

I dream of teeth.

I dream of teeth.

 

(Because it’s National Poetry Month.)

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