Of course the moment your parents mentally divorce
a baby gap appears between your two front teeth.
Then not before long your four canines follow suit
the way a pack of puppies might follow a child home
one afternoon—the half-eaten lunch in their book sack
crushed to unleash the mutt version of myrrh.
Finally, your molars & premolars no longer thirst
to slumber on the same cot, so branch off to sofas,
the floor, even wising up to comfort themselves in dirt.
So your poor parents, to save your gums from
hardening the way plaque steels the arteries, grief,
the heart, your parents are forced to break the bank
on turquoise braces for however many years it takes for
your smile to straighten itself out like the curve
of a swing when the sky plops down. They must
split the payments until your sore mouth no longer
doubts its separation. Your tastebuds chained beneath
and behind the fence your parents went Dutch
on like their first dates. The masseter carrying all
the bells & more whistle than master. & your tongue
in its lunacy pawing at every ivory picket for its escape.
Copyright © 2023 by Clemonce Heard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.