Box of teeth

Teeth like typewriter keys,
round and browning
each edge a consonant
each clack a schwa

Teeth like pearls
grown from grit and spit
in the deep tongue
flexed, then limpened again

Teeth like dates torn
from calendar pages
ticking time as though
we rocketed through
our crumpled pasts

Maybe we did. It’s true
all I can keep are pieces
and speak to each a different story:
my lips forming semblance
of your mouth. My words
rebuilding you from discarded bones.

Look, this was a girl, I say,
my tongue tracing ridges
of my fortunate fortress.
These teeth held her words.
These teeth taught her to speak.
They hissed small, urgent warnings.
They bit her pink, and crumbled.


What was I saying, again?

In the distance, always traffic:
.          two miles of air carry the hush of tires
                  slithering up from the freeway, great river
        of asphalt flowing north to south, south
to north, constant tides, perpetual motion
.          machine of fabulous actions & reactions
                   & another country at its end,
        a small shift in width & language
and an entire world binds tight, trussed
        in an erotic capitalist shibari of hope
.                    and commerce. This is the tongue that underscores
        every day, the constant glossolalia
running like a spine through the waking hours,
.          a Pentecostal in rapture, speaking the words
                   of his angels and gods. He said, let the money
.          flow here, and it was good. He said, let there be
darkness, let there be light, let there be
.          the need and dark promise of movement,
                  let there be a road that leads both away
.          and back home, let there be mile markers
to measure moments of decision.
.          And it was good. Babble, babble, toil
.                    and scrabble: spilling
        insouciant tiles on the table, babble
& mumble & crosswords & jumble, all thrown
        scattershot into the air, illegalities
                  and negligence of firing a firearm like this
        nothwithstanding, the sounds of pellets seared
through my brain like some mad noun disease,
        & I wait by the open window for a strange mother
                  to call and offer to pay my way home.


Boundaries and inventories

The sky lies heavy
            where there used to be owls.
No calls come from the horned
.              firs these days,
no repetitions but
            tires and the passage
of days. Once
            there was a buck,
young and curious, who
            nibbled lupine
outside the back
            door. Now there is no buck,
now there is no lupine. Now
.              there is no door.
All the things I used
.              to count and map
have gone. Lest you think
.              this is a poem
about saving,
            it’s not. Saving happens
when one hopes for
.              something, a future
or a past. This is
            a poem about doors.
This is a poem about
            glass I slide
between here and
.              there, a handle to control
the sights and sounds
            and boundaries
of in and out. This is about
.              how
I used to leave
            cracks. This is about
how, now, open
.              or shut, I cannot manage
boundaries, inventories,
.             the strange comfort
and intimacies
            of intrusive beasts.


Brandy McKenzie holds a somewhat dusty MFA in writing from the University of Oregon, has published poems in more than three dozen literary magazines, won various awards, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and worked on the editorial boards of three different nationally distributed literary magazines. These days, though, she mostly works as a paralegal, teaches critical thinking and writing to community college students, and tries to provoke conversation about strangeness of our shared waking dream.