Late Orthodontia

By Hans Ostrom

A dentist wants to straighten the man’s teeth,
close up those gaps–the ones that help
to scare people when his smile, tied somehow
to a Viking heritage, fully deploys its ivory squad.

He hadn’t invited the dentist to suggest dental
rearrangement. He had been and is content
with his teeth. The man attracts much unbidden
advice, always has.

“Do you floss with rope?” a pretty
young woman once asked him way back
then at a college party. “If you take your clothes
off, I’ll try it,” he’d said. They’d shared a laugh,
teeth bared. She’d stared at his teeth. Again.
Hers were straight and white, de rigeur
for American suburbia. “When I was 10,”

he told her,” warming to the subject
of his minor tusks, “my parents asked
the dentist if I should get braces.
But the dentist told them my tongue’s
too big & would push the teeth
out again. “No,” the woman had said.

She smelled good, wore a thin dress,
and majored in math. “Yes,” he said.

Now through the Invisoline of memory, he
recalls that she shifted hips as he sipped tequila.
“Really,” she said, not quite a question, and sipped
her beer & looked at his closed mouth. And pondered.

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