This is beautiful and I want to remember it


When my grandmother’s mother complained of a toothache,

her own mother strung up a row of incisors from the backyard apple tree

until they swung gently in the wind like the wing bones of a bird

still trying to lift its dead carcass into flight.

For every day the toothache persisted, she ripped down another incisor

until at the end of the month only the string was left

but the sapling’s branches still hunched under the weight of the nonexistent teeth.

The point was that pain always leaves its owner bent out of shape.

When my linguistics professor inquired why I always wrote about love

in some form or another, I brought up the same story

and made some profession about poetry being the language of love

because every word stabs deep into the heart.

But when I returned home from class that day and heard the news

that my grandmother’s husband had died, I thought of those teeth

drifting lazily in the wind so many years ago

and realized that poetry is not about love; it is love.

Because when the poem is read, when the life is over

and burned into ashes in the ground like the incisors,

the shapes of the words continue to float in our minds

without even string to hold them up,

much the same way in which love continues to exist

long after we have stopped falling into it.



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