Teeth: A Short Story
They aren’t as hard as you think
Even diamonds can crack
I knocked out the one in front
When I was just ten,
An incident involving a Huffy bike
And an ad hoc ramp made
From bricks and a sliver of plywood/sheet metal
We didn’t have enough to get it fixed
Back then. I wore a “flipper” for years
Which was a pink palate mold
Melded with a fake in front
It was a dicey contraption.
I had to take it out when I ate.
A couple times at school I had to fish it out
Of the dumpster behind the cafeteria,
My friend Eric holding me by the ankles.
I wore braces for 8 years because
We ran out of money or something
And the orthodontist never took them off
But I didn’t mind because the metal wires
Held the fake in place
Like a wig that obviously wasn’t hair
But at least hid the baldness.
People get you slotted
The minute you forget yourself
And let slip a smile.
So I re-learned how
By watching myself in a mirror.
What to do with my lips
How to angle my head
And crink my neck to the right.
More of the pained rictal grin of
Primitively carved jack o’lanterns.
Man, it’s a deep cut to realize that
Even joy can be a betrayal
All’s well that ends well, though.
I studied hard and hit the books,
Eventually earned enough to
Buy a tooth of my own.
But it’s too late.
I smile just the same,
Crooked and awkward,
Despite the implant
And I come at apples from the side
With skyving flanking attacks.
Once you think you know who you are
It’s too hard to try to forget again
You have to wait until you’re old
And the face in the mirror is a stranger
With caved in cheeks and thin
Desiccated lips encircling
An edentulous gum-pink hole.
You just have to laugh, I guess.
The way it ends is so ridiculous.
Laughter is all you have left to deploy.
I like to think this is what drives
Cherubic babies to babble and smile
With such toothless radiant joy