Monday, November 10, 2014

"Big Ol' Teeth," by Hans Ostrom

Several decades old, he finds it hard to believe
that a dentist proposes braces for his teeth,
to make money, of course, but technically
to close up those gaps, the ones that apparently
terrify strangers (but not children or animals)
when he smiles, laughs, or snarls. For fun,

he attributes his big, relaxed teeth
and the enormous smile (quite vulgar, actually)
to a Viking heritage. He wonders if it's
a berserker's grin. Important detail:

he hadn't asked the dentist about braces,
and the teeth are in good shape. Typical.
He has always received unbidden advice
about his teeth and everything else.
(The general heading for filing
such advice is, What the fuck
is wrong with people?)

One of his aunts had teeth
behind her wisdom teeth.
He suspects something atavistic
lurks in his DNA. Sabre-tooth
cat? Hyena? Shark?

War, famine, poverty, racism, etc.
go on, so he's not about to spend
excess thought on his teeth, which
work fine, fantastic omnivore-tools.

"Do you floss with rope?" a pretty girl
once asked him at a college party.
Not a bad joke. Apparently his big ol'
teeth transfixed her, for she stared.
Her teeth were suburban straight and white,
as all Americans are supposed to be, right?

He provided deep background. "My parents
asked the dentist when I was ten if I should
have braces. But the dentist said my tongue
is too big and would just push the teeth
out again, and the gaps would come back."

"Really?" she said, attempting to look
inside his mouth, as if he were about
to run in the Derby. She was thinking
about his tongue. He was, too,
in a roundabout way.

hans ostrom 2014

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