“I speak because I am shattered”
I had no one, during quarantine, to touch
my teeth’s chipped glyphs, unnerved
serrations migrating on the jaw. I nearly longed for
fingers to leave their prints on my cavities,
turning the air I breathed to blades. My memory sharpened
after seeing the dentists 3 months too late for one
of many problems they knew I couldn’t afford.
My numerous damages are nocturnal. They sleep with me,
holding my face like a mask as I mistake poison
throbbing in my cheek for a heart in my mouth;
tongue half numb, skull littered with pink slips.
“Your insurance doesn’t cover this,”— Fluorescent light
flooding my lake-wide mouth, a red buoy
bobbing near the throat drowned in water, mist,
the high-pitched cry metal instruments made.
Now the sound follows me inside
echoes of phantom music. Tinnitus, it’s named, interrupting
silences gifted when I walk on a vacant Harlem street.
“Don’t spend the money” I’d say to my mother,
naïve to think I could bear living
with my mouth’s irreparability.
It’s not her fault I’ve had 8 fillings and an extraction,
but when she carries that guilt it’s enough
material for my unwarranted revenge;
slipping my tongue in the hole in my mouth—
regret discolors contentment like a tooth’s
composite, becoming a crown
memory wears to brace the bone’s decaying animal.
No, I meant enamel