we have crowded mouths. once, i opened mine
& a swarm of cicadas flew out & into a nearby tree.
how long ago was seventeen years? i have been
stealing teeth since i was two when i reached,
fecklessly into my uncle's throat where rested a tooth &
a bundle of sticks. you know what they call a bundle of sticks?
the tooth was made of jade stone. the tooth shape-shifted
into a lighter. watching him smoke a cigar on the porch.
sweet leaf smell. rolling myself in a leaf for safety.
i have so many crooked teeth. i look in a mirror & i see
gravestones jutting from dirt. often, widows will come
& leave flowers on my tongue. my mother,
stirring a pot of promises, has lemon rinds for gums.
unlik her i'm not prone to citrus. nothing sharp
about my talking. everything is air pilot &
pizza kitchen. throwing a handful of teeth into the air.
a spoon for craddling teeth into the garden.
planting & hoping for more to grow. sharks, as you know,
they keep yielding teeth their whole lifetime.
no shortage there. my body makes me feel
so deeply un prepared for my own life. who decided
on the tongue? the lips? two row boats. paddling harder.
in the dentist chair, my father clasped his hands together
like an acolyte. asked for the procedure to be over
as the dentist pried a carrot from his soil.
roots down all the way into the ocean. he cried
i held his hand. when the tooth was out i pocketed it
& i said, "what tooth? where?" i have it still.
yellowed along one side & prone to minnow swimming.
someday, when i need it, i'll fix his tooth in my own mouth
root & all