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,
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.