teeth never die

by Amy Turn Sharp


I had a small silver locket that held my first baby tooth. I wore it like a good luck charm for years. It hung between my breasts, resting on the bottom of my bra.

I would take the tooth out from time to time, pressing it in my hands, and finding the sharp small underbelly with my finger. I wished I could whittle it into a tiny whistle- to blow air through the delicate shape. The tiny square. I wanted to put it in my mouth, but I kept good and would put it back inside of the safe locket and let it swing against my skin. It was a reminder that I was once innocent. A milk tooth honey pot of endless possibilities. A true clean slate.

My mother was so kind to keep all the mysterious items in her trunk at the foot of her bed. Teeth, souvenir t-shirts from all over the world, white starched dresses, small silver bangles and charms. Teeth. She kept all my teeth in glassine envelopes and when I discovered them I would line them up on my bedspread and stare at them. I would arrange them into a circle like a mouth. They were like runes. They were like artifacts.

I left the first baby tooth from the locket in a dingy European city one summer long ago. I placed it with care on top of an old wonky wooden fence that stretched for miles along a road of sadness. I wanted to live forever inside of that day. I kept turning around and looking at the speck of white until it was only a blur and I gave up trying to understand my compulsions.

In college when they ripped out my wisdom teeth, I woke from the surgery to the fat faces of my dentists and his women. They welcomed me back from the twilight mainland and told me of all the stories that I had been spinning. They said I spoke in French to them like a record. I spoke in French like a record and it was normal because everyone said loony things after surgery. I was very concerned that they knew where all my teeth were hidden.

I only have a few teeth left from the envelope now. They seem smaller every time I touch them now like going back to your primary school and seeing all the toilets, all the desks. I want to try and keep the rest, but I still find myself burying one in the sand or tucking one behind an old bookcase somewhere. I have no rules, only gut responses. They have been left for experiences, lovers, days that have illuminated my life. No real reason.

And somewhere inside of my mind is a map. A cartographer's pretty daydream. You would grow dizzy if you tried to follow your finger across the zig zag witchcraft of the haphazard travels of my heart.

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