The deal was that I got to keep my teeth
and the money,
securing the white treasures
in a small plastic box much
like the one my grandfather placed
a bicentennial quarter in for me
in 1976, padded with pink and
kept safe for more than a quarter century
until it was stolen.
My milk teeth had long spoiled by then,
disintegrated into milky shards within their case,
an enamel puzzle too fine to reassemble
and left untouched in the theft.
I kept my children’s teeth for them
until they thought to make
their own deals, writing careful notes
on paper, asking to keep
the remnants of babyhood, outgrown
into white gems they were not willing
to part with.
Preserved in a wooden box inlaid with flecks
of moonstone on my bedroom mantel,
until root canal and cavities left scars
on some of the precious bits, overlaying
perfect memories of infant smiles, two pearls
of white shining through the softness,
with a mother’s shame for failing
to protect those toothy grins long enough
for each one to work its way naturally,
pristine, into the box of treasures.
Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, and other everyday realities. Her work has recently appeared in The Capra Review, Juniper, Eunoia Review, Rogue Agent, The Same, as well as in Mothers Always Write. She lives in Jersey City, NJ where she teaches English at New Jersey City University. She is on Twitter @annwlace409.