The Tooth Fairy
They brushed a quarter with glueand glitter, slipped in on barefeet, and without waking mepainted rows of delicate goldfootprints on my sheets with a loveso quiet, I still can’t hear it.My mother must have beena beauty then, sittingat the kitchen table with him,a warm breeze lifting herembroidered curtains, waitingfor me to fall asleep.It’s harder to believethe years that followed, the palmscurled into fists, a floorof broken dishes, her chain-smokingthrough long silences, himpunching holes in his walls.I can still remember her printdresses, his checkered taxi, the dayI found her in the closetwith a paring knife, the nighthe kicked my sister in the ribs.He lives alone in Oregon now, dyingof a rare bone disease.His face stippled gray, his anklesclotted beneath wool socks.She’s a nurse on the graveyard shift,Comes home mornings and calls me.Drinks her dark beer and goes to bed.And I still wonder how they did it, slippedthat quarter under my pillow, made thoseperfect footprints…Whenever I visit her, I ask again.“I don’t know,” she says, rocking, closingher eyes. “We were as surprised as you.”
Copyright © 2019 by Dorianne Laux
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Dorianne Laux teaches poetry in the the Program in Creative Writing at North Carolina State University and is a founding faculty member of Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program. A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and a recipient of the Oregon Book Award and the Paterson Prize, she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
"Another splendid new one by one of our best, who never stops paying attention, and is never unwilling, and summons from her readers unwavering trust."
"Dorianne Laux's Only The Day Is Long: New and Selected Poems gifts the reader with a foundation that bears the true weight of life and death. Each trope rises out of lived feeling—everyday rituals bend toward the sacred as beauty peers through a pure, honest language. Here, at the heart of mastery, is an American voice paying dues through tribute. These poems dare to sing and cross borders, in step with the natural and universal."
"Throughout the years and throughout her five books Dorianne Laux has not faltered. She has wrestled with the angels and with the serpents, eros and thanatos are wrestling still, and the sound they make is the sound of this woman singing."