I dreamt of you once, a long time ago
and then not again, even when I tried
to conjure you in those moments just before
that slip into static-y gray sleep.
Until this morning,
when I saw you, not-you but you,
smaller and younger,
Standing on the edge of a street curb
the toe from one shoe tucked up
against the back of the other, rubber to rubber,
The black suede reflecting the light
in shades of textured gray.
And then the streetlights went out for just a second,
the darkness of movie streets, not real ones,
where the yellow glow still radiates from the blacktop,
where the air becomes dense with light
and dark, the universal movie cue for ominous.
A small beat in time: of misty, yellowy dark and stifling thick air.
Quickly, the full glow
of two flanking rows of white light.
And you were gone.
A piece of half chewed gum and a quarter from your pocket
where your feet had just been.
And then, in the time-shifted and earth-crawling way of dreams,
I was in my bed watching myself sleep
and I was dreaming of my own teeth
so common they say,
just anxiety, a base fear come to life,
a universal image.
But I had never had that dream, never that I could remember.
I was spitting out tooth after tooth
Swirling them with my tongue
to keep them from falling down my throat
And they were clean and smooth and bloodless
The roots in tact and the enamel hard and thick
The teeth of a buried body washed clean
Or a life-sized doll
Or a teenager
Not my middle-aged teeth
full of fillings and root canals
and porcelain crowns shining whiter than the aged
and worn mineral of my waking mouth.
I held four or five of them in my palm,
Molars and incisors, running my fingers over the oblong shapes
and curves and dents, feeling the way form gives way to air,
Held them in my hand in my mind as I slept.
I thought they would never stop falling out,
they would never stop shifting under my tongue, over my tongue,
pushing through my lips. Even though I know
there is a finite number of them,
a point at which they would all be gone, leaving me
gumless, safe and sunken-faced.
I thought I woke, but it was only
from the dream within the dream and I was adrift,
between real waking and real dreaming.
And I heard the song of the end credits. You know which one.
If you close your eyes, I know you can hear it now,
the strum of the opening chords and the slow upbeat
of the drums getting faster, little by little,
then the sound of me walking away,
both feet padding the rhythm on the asphalt, me:
Toothless and shrinking,
Asleep and awake.
It was a dream, all of it,
but you are not here and you never were.
I made that choice. Long ago.
And then over and over and over by only standing still.
Yet you shear my bone from my jaw and ache there,
in the pockets where the roots used to hold.
In the places where my face takes shape
over bone and body.
In each tooth I spit out,