Karen Kunc © 2011 All Rights Reserved
Dental care was the theme of each story
in my last fiction collection.
Not a coincidence, the fourth or fifth woman
I couldn’t live without was a billing clerk
in a dental office. She named each tooth
in my mouth that her tongue slid against.
The lateral incisor, she named Whale,
reminded her of the large bone
found on a north shore when she was young.
Peter the Great, her favorite Russian monarch,
collected teeth; as did two United States senators.
Wrench was her name for my bicuspid.
I had medical training. Telling her this brought us closer.
What happens to a person asleep in a chair
among strangers, I wrote two stories about that.
The relationship between teeth and love
was never clear, this, too, I wrote about.
The central incisor was her favorite tooth
— the mark its crown left in an apple or on the side of a hand.
The first aid classes I took in the army never mentioned teeth.
She brought home x-rays and explained
how the tilt of a tooth predicted
how long the patient would take to pay.
The last story in the book, about the man and woman
who injected their lips with Novocain
before making love, is not fiction.
We rehearsed the new disasters
until they were as comfortable as our failures.
The fields in the distance, reaching into the sky.
The urging of the sun. The nursery rhymes falling, falling
with each tremor into white piles of dust on the floor.
Crows peppered against the clouds.
Do you remember how their footprints trembled?
I once thought it couldn’t continue
this way, but I was wrong.
Rick Bursky’s recent book Death Obscura is out from Sarabande Books; Bear Star Press released his previous collection, The Soup of Something Missing. His poems have appeared in many journals including American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Southern Review, Field, Prairie Schooner, and Black Warrior Review. You can read his blog at rickbursky.blogspot.com.
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