Looking into my
father’s dead mouth I get
                  a good look at
all that expensive
                  dental work,
the silver fillings,
                  bridgework,
crowns, implants, etc.
                  he had installed
over the
                  years. After
a childhood
                  of neglect, he
was very
                  conscientious about
his teeth—even going
                  so far
as to use
                  a water pik.
 
The dead open
                  mouth which
I arrived in time
                  to see, given
that I missed the other
                  bit, put me in
mind of my friend
                  the cosmetic
prosthodontist. Talk
                  about expensive! Caps,
veneers, and whatever. And
                  then the
reconstructive
                  surgery,
implantology, etc.
                  As it is I
wonder how my own
                  crowns, teeth-colored
composite fillings—
                  to replace the
mercury ones—and so on
                  will fare in
the grave, or in the crucible
                  of the crematorium—
in twelve
                  or fourteen
hundred degree
                  heat for two
and a half
                  hours.
 
I had an
                  art teacher
my freshmen
                  year in college
when I—surprise—
                  was too lazy
technically
                  to “prevail” as an
art major. I hated
                  those pencil
contour drawings
                  but felt
the call of
                  paint,
the desire to
                  squeeze it
from the tube, squeegee
                  it across
the canvas with
                  a palette
knife. I went in his
                  studio once
about some
                  assignment and
there were
                  horses lying around
on the floor,
                  full-sized and
exhausted,
                  cast in white
polyester resin.
 
                  But back to the
teeth and my lost
                  “transitional object,” the
dentist. Perhaps to sell
                  the product
or for better
                  persuasiveness
with women in general,
                  he’s incredibly
well-maintained—
                  the shiny sports car the
leather jackets
                  the buzz cut
clipped just five
                   minutes ago.
The pressed dry-
                  cleaned trousers
or tight jeans the
                  collars the
boots—
                  I could
describe every
                  outfit I’ve seen
him in, the rolled
                  edges of the
collar and cuffs
                  of the yellow
sweater—the skin—
                  and don’t forget
the teeth—
                  he is one
big monument
                  to materiality. And
I want to
                  lick him all
over.
 
               I do lick my
                  father all
over, practically, when
                  he is dead—his
skin is slightly acrid,
                  tastes of
sawdust. I kiss
                  him in
the same hollow
                  of his cheek
over and over, mussing
                  the scruff on
the back of his
                  head, pulling
down his sheet.
                  Take photos of
his hands. Pocket
                  the Timex, for
which I had gone to
                  great
trouble to
                  get a new
strap
                  because he insisted
on keeping the watch
                  despite
its cloudy face.
                  My father was
“Recycling
                  Incarnate.”
Except for the glittering
                  dental work, he
expected his whole
                  body to be
consumed
                  in its new
life as science
                  project—he willed it
to the Virginia
                  Anatomical
Society!
 
                    After Oliver Funeral
                  Home arrived
to pick up “the
                  body,” and I signed
off as Next
                  of Kin,
I went to the nursing
                  home guest room
and slept. Much later
                  I was
nearly fully
                  awakened by the
sense that my
                  molar was loose,
then that my whole
                  jaw had fallen
off and I could feel
                  it throbbing,
pulsing on
                  its own. I lay
in the dark
                  in the phony Colonial-
décor dark
                  consumed by
terror over this thing
                  that could
not be undone.
 
                  Naïve freshman,
with little life as an
                  artist, I was startled
by the horses laid out
                  on Mr. Kern’s floor. I
couldn’t tell
                  whether the
sprawled and bloated horses
                  were dead or just
napping in their stalls, their bellies
                  full after a night
grazing the lush summer
                  grass.

 
 
Photo by danoxster

Dana Roeser

DANA ROESER's fourth book, All Transparent Things Need Thundershirts, won the Wilder Prize at Two Sylvias Press and will be published in Spring 2019. She is also the author of The Theme of Tonight’s Party Has Been Changed, recipient of the Juniper Prize, as well as Beautiful Motion and In the Truth Room, both winners of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize.Recent poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Pushcart Prize XLIII, Poetry, Diode, Florida Review, Cimarron Review, and Crazyhorse.

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