My first teeth sprung from mother’s calcium. Some hung
loose like tired breasts begging to be torn away.
I never let them drop off simply— always
the sharp red yank. Then new teeth erupted from my gums,
perfect squares assembled not from her, but from cold
cow’s milk, buttered toast and Babybel cheese. I loved to gnaw
on the red wax wheel, suck up the cream that clots the bottle’s cap.
When sipped milk would settle on my lip, I’d leave it
unwiped, mammal fat orbiting my mouth, proof
that I was still from someone if not her. One cold day
I holed up in a blanket, gorged myself on ice cream,
got sick off a tit I’d never met— sick enough
to give up milk for good, that false comfort corroding
my teeth. I was old enough to know I couldn’t yank them out,
so I started strapping down my breasts. No matter what I did
I could still feel them against me— sharp lumpy creatures filled
with milk’s machinery. Years later, when I went back home to help get rid
of old things, she made comments on my body: how young still,
and how beautiful. I came across a Ziploc bag of baby teeth
in a dusty shoe box— my name written on the side in permanent marker,
her bubbly handwriting smudged. I didn’t open
the bag, just peered through the cloudy plastic
at those jagged calcified losses.
V. Batyko is a poet from Los Angeles, California. They hold an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington, where they received the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award from the University of Southern California. Their work has been published in Unbroken and pioneertown, and they were a finalist for Columbia Journal’s 2019 Winter Contest.