What is the Diameter of your Mouth?

My mouth is having an affair. It has let a non-degreed dentist inside it, stretching it far past its ability and now I have the aftertaste of sore and bothered.

My father always knew when I relapsed because my nose would be cracked and red. Eventually, he stopped asking. Instead, we’d meet at our regular lunch spot, talk around addiction to remind each other there is more to life than pain.

When I go to the dentist, the other students gather to try and understand the trauma of my mouth. The professors ask questions; my teeth become a pop quiz for what happens when one flosses with stolen pill carcasses for too many years.

Once, my father asked me why I kept putting holes in my body (reference chapters eighteen through twenty-three: The Piercing Years). He’d wince at the hoops and studs and glare of jewelry distracting my skin. I never really knew how to answer. To let the screams out? 

My mouth is called child-sized. They need to make an impression of my teeth and no mold is small enough to fit inside me. They stretch and stretch and I wonder if this is what childbirth is like.

Eventually, I stopped taking drugs and cleared my body of jewelry. The addiction will always remain, but all the holes closed up.

I want to tell my dentist that I like the way his facial hair grows and that if I could wake up with a beard, I’d leave it alone. But one day, I woke to find a long, blond hair growing from my chin and it seemed too lonely, so I asked my spouse to take it away. Maybe I have a difficult time committing to the in-between of things.

The last time I consumed “the bad drugs”, I was watching a friend’s dog for a weekend. It was her way of thanking me. The calendar called it Valentine’s Day and I might have preferred chocolate, but it didn’t stop me from consuming.

I tell my father that I have been writing non-traditional love poems. He asks me what that means. I say: the kind of love that runs away from flowers and announces the beauty in mouth sores and cavities. It hurts when I laugh because my mouth is still healing. It hurts when I laugh because I am still learning how.

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how poems arrive

You remember exactly what you were wearing when you wrote that. You can recall the stench of your breath the instant that stanza arrived– lunch of peanut butter and spoon. You know your socks didn’t match that day and the one which wore your left foot was longer, yet rebelled against elastic and gravity. After you erased that last line, you felt around in your mouth for your tongue. Remember. You worried it was swallowed– how irresponsible of you. You had a rash on your elbow. Both of your elbows. Derived from the heat, but it was Winter, so you blamed it on your over-active imagination, longing for summertime swelter. You licked your lips three times after each completed line because you somehow grew addicted to patterns. The title arrived inside your mouth after a nap: your teeth were wide open windows and snores were like a welcome mat to the three words you finally decided on.