I haven’t thought before my son calls one a “branch”
of how roots sometimes stay holding to the ground
after what they’d been attached to is gone.
I remember the vague, tremendous tug
of my wisdom teeth being pulled
before the anesthesia had completely set—
the hurried surgeon, the curled up sleep,
the empty autumn that had just begun,
my oldest friend hailing us a taxi—
the part that came after, when our husbands
would grow into the spaces soon to be left
by our wandering boyfriends—
and the part that came before, a long hallway
where I was always kissing someone goodbye
below skylights with no way of looking out.
A wisdom tooth is known in other languages
as a tooth of judgment, huddling, love,
an unknown to your parents tooth.
When mine were gone, I sat alone in a bar
with yellow bruises on my throat, swollen cheeks.
My skinny self, covered up and waiting
while my boyfriend was falling in love
in another town. In this country,
I explain to my students, children wait
for a fairy to collect their fallen teeth
from beneath a pillow. My student from Japan
says he’ll remove his daughter’s “shaking tooth”
then take her outside to throw it onto the roof
so that the new growth will be pulled in the right direction,
a tiny commotion, suddenly rising.
Christine Poreba’s first book, Rough Knowledge, won the 2014 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Subtropics, The Southern Review, and The Sun Magazine, and anthologies, among them most recently All We Can Hold, a collection of poems on motherhood. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and their young son.