orthodontics

by Elizabeth Cregan

i.

you chipped your teeth
on words you could not
keep inside
as they pushed
through fragile bone and
cracked lips

perfect summer, bloodied gums

you hated me in the moments after
you told me
you
loved me

I am sorry
that I fell
silent

—scraped my knees on
a gravelly voice I 
could not respond to—
let the blood run thick
and sticky and new

“love”

sat acidic in the air

until we both
choked


ii.

you walked out
of the front door of my family’s house
too late for the neighbors to see

my father had forgotten his place on the

proverbial
porch: 

shotgun in his lap


tradition on his side
he did not protect me from falling
from this height

iii.

this is not a poem
with longevity or
epic verse, no
footnotes to find out
why you said

(fuck it, I
love you)

and left
with chipped teeth and
broken
crowns sounds like a metaphor

for bruised masculinity

and maybe it is

iv.

you
didn’t look back
didn’t turn and give me a wry smile or a knowing look
or return with heaving breath and

tiring arms

like John Cusack
at the end of a movie
I wished you’d seen

you didn’t say
anything
you never opened
your mouth

I never saw
the wreckage I left 


Michele Dale