I had some wifi issues last night and couldn't post. The poem is better for extra tweaking :)
My Son Hands Me His Last Tooth
They fall out quickly,
leaving the way childhood does,
one day you are able to hold hands
in the grocery, the next they are
hanging a few steps behind.
I love how the molars exit without fanfare,
the way puberty arrives
a pimple, a mood, a crush.
Do you want this? he asks.
For some time he’d left
others under his pillow in vain.
The tooth fairy has long been outed
but I keep the ruse going
except he has to remind me.
I fetch a Wow! and five dollars,
pittance for something so central.
What do you do with them anyway?
Oh sometimes I save them in my jewelry drawer.
I say this to make him feel
that next to diamond and gold,
silver and stone, his enamel,
even his rejected is worthy.
The tooth looks airy as popcorn,
like a piece of popcorn evenly cleaved.
The core of dried blood is like the
brown shiny kernel, both once one or two cells,
vegetable and animal,
glorious differentiation, into eyeballs
and sweet starch, roots and bones.
He is my sixth child and I wish
I could blame my lack of ceremony
on busyness, the way the baby books
for subsequent children are often started and abandoned,
but there have been dozens of teeth over the decades
I stealthily gathered in the night,
most I can’t account for.
There are so many passages
barely marked, uncelebrated rites like
weaning, potty training, first walking
up to puberty, sixteenth birthdays, graduations.
I lack a larger context,
have no extended family rituals to replicate,
am dwarfed by deciding
what to have for dinner every night.
Should we have Italian, Mexican,
Chinese, sushi, Thai?
Should we celebrate St. Patricks Day
and Cinco De Mayo?
My adopted children are Ethiopian
and face a double loss.
As do their adopted friends from Ghana
who looked forward to getting a fried egg
on their everyday rice for their birthdays.
It takes a village to gather the eggs
and observe with wonder,
a community to render the profane, sacred.
I am a cultural orphan tempted
to culturally appropriate,
wish I could give this boy a rattle made with his teeth
in a ceremony around a fire.
I lament he was not taken by the men
for a vision quest,
returned and introduced as a man.
My son’s ivories are larger than those of
children that travelled my womb,
his dark curly hair and brown skin
are similarly novel,
but my longing for his wholeness,
the way he stirs my heart is familiar.
All I have managed to give him-
(and I pray it is enough)
is a turn to the earth,
to the passages of time and season,
candles at solstice,
blooming branches in spring.
I point out first stars and sunsets.
He is the first to show me
the river is swollen with rain
or a bald eagle
or the moon as it rises, points to the sky,
the circle pearly and white.