pearly whites

by Audrey Colasanti

my father kept his children’s baby teeth    in a broken spined box at the bottom of his sock 

drawer     there were seven      children he had a lot of  teeth strewn in with a mess 

of coins      tie clips & a silver throwing star      the kind used by ninja’s in b movies    

I did sneak   peek into that drawer often     transfixed by my father’s keeping   of tiny teeth      

he was not     a toucher did not hug    or kiss did not make breezy chitchat     nor guffaw     

with wide mouthed     abandon one could say      he was stern heart       padlocked

key misplaced                                                                          yet he kept our teeth    

 

once a mother    I too became a tooth collector      each little nib of ivory that dropped out 

of my toddler’s mouths    as if these tokens would somehow preserve my children    forever    

where my father felt a need    to hide the teeth of his most tender emotions     I carried mine   

one might argue      too close to the gaping gums       spilling the teeth out onto my palm 

in the worst of moments                          fingering them around in little circles across my skin 

putting them on my tongue      & tasting their rusted blood     I needed this my children 

were still here    still alive I had their teeth to prove it     when I spit them back into my fist     

& shook my wrist            tempting the perfect roll of dice                     oh how I lucky I felt.

About the Author

Audrey Colasanti is a self-described 'outsider poet', having been - until recently - primarily self taught. Under the tutelage of poet Danez Smith in 2019, Audrey has completed her first poetry manuscript, 'green.' The poems in 'green' focus on the struggles of raising 2 children with serious health challenges; one with epilepsy, the other with a rare heart condition called
Tetralogy of Fallot. Although Audrey's story is unique in its specific details, it is universal in the unexpected heartaches that accompany parenthood (& the fears & depression we all face at some point in our lives).