by Jose Oseguera
Recalling years and things that happened in them
is like walking into a room
and forgetting what you came in for,
as when Mom started digging
her long, self-manicured fingernails
into my hand, dragging me
to the dentist’s office.
The holes bored by plaque acids
from eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast,
lunch and dinner alone—
wider than the gaps between my teeth,
ones she forbade the pedodontist
from bracing together because she also had them—
licking the bite in words
screamed behind clenched jaws,
from one person you loved
toward one who didn’t love her anymore:
how can someone breaking someone else break you too?
Prepared bone wounds,
cheeks tranquilized dead:
skull chunk ripped out,
leaving my body cracked.
It hurt to smile
even with soft cotton wads
stuffed deep, packed tight
soaking the oozing exit wound.
When did I unlearn to laugh for no reason
and begin gnashing my joy in my molars,
tucking it away safely for a day when things
would be just a little better?
When did innocence seep out of me like a mouthful
of blood through a smile?
These tiny, unfeeling things
you can grind and grind,
little by little every night,
destroying without feeling numbness.
Sounds bruising into my head
as an uninvited guest
dragging his mangled body
against every surface,
one who didn’t want to leave,
not because he had grown accustomed to me
but because he no longer knew where he was from
or where he was going.
Buried under bed covers—
as bone teeth inside the gums,
waiting impatiently for pain to puncture them out
slowly through child-flesh—
He gorged himself on my inner cheeks,
gritted fangs trying to forget
the taste in my saliva—
something bitter, yet sweet;
a rot, salty and invisible to every dentist—
when Dad stopped being my father
and became just another man
I needed to protect myself from
Artist: KangHee Kim
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. His writing has been featured in The Esthetic Apostle, McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the ‘Best of the Net’ award (2018 and 2019) and the ‘Pushcart Prize.’ He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection ‘The Milk of Your Blood.’