Caroline Harper New


                 After Kathleen Graber


Her hands are in my mouth

               when my dentist and I discover our common love of bones.


Our professions, both of them, are at odds with the fact that,

                  once formed,

enamel cannot repair itself. She concerns herself with caramel

for the same reason I track the skeletal layout of human fingers

                                  in whale flippers, in possum toes.

How the alligator split from the flamingo

                         by accident. There is no reason


to think dinosaurs weren’t also soft and pink, says the paleontologist. After all,

our fear of birds is ancient: hinged ankles, swivel toes, a wishbone.

There is no reason


                          to wish ourselves extinct, yet if left to instinct, humans

walk circles counter-clockwise. Think of the hippodromes. The middle of the desert.

The word for this in witchcraft


                                               is widdershins, meaning counter

to the sun—unlucky, unless intentional, in which case

                                                              it’s a curse. We used to have a dog


that chased shadows in frantic, endless circles until we had to tie him up.

Still, one day, I pulled from his soft giddy mouth a songbird, wet and whole and


presumably dead. No thumping on the chest or warm sugar water could rouse it.

I set it on the fencepost while I dug a tiny grave,

                                     but when I reached for the body


it was gone. Dancing widdershins

                          can summon the supernatural, defined as beyond

scientific understanding. The body was merely in shock. There is no reason to doubt


witchcraft, says the paleontologist. We study the past to know the future,

                                                                                      and yet, our fear

is as ancient as the possum in the headlights. The familiarity

of the small pink hands. The dentist says I can wait

                                           to have this dead tooth pulled from my mouth

                      as long as I can ignore it.


Found In Volume 51, No. 06
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Caroline Harper New
About the Author

Caroline Harper New is a writer and visual artist from southwest Georgia. She is currently on a Zell Fellowship at the University of Michigan and serving as the Dzanc Writer-in-Residence in Ann Arbor, MI.