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  • Loose Teeth
  • Isabel Henderson (bio)

1. AssommeurI was honest with him,about you, in a wayI hadn't beenin years.

He tried to kill me, I told him,And then

You made a more-successfulself-attempt. As if your victimswere but practice dummies.My limbs heavywith ballistic gel.

I take full responsibility.The year before,I taught you howto break down

an acorn squash. Directingthe peeling and slicingof each crescent-moon section.A lifelong vegetarian, you joked,This is the closestI will ever getto butchery. [End Page 49]

You did it with a knife.If you go longways, not across,it takes less than five minutesto bleed out. If you justgive it here, I'll demonstrate.

2. SutureAfter you died I searched forways to do my makeupso people could not tellthat I was crying. I wasn't botheredthat they knew, just that they would askthe wrong things, attempt to comfort mewith something other thanyour resurrection. I still domy face up like that.I want to walk through the worldas though you never marked me.

O, yes—to be born means to die.I knew you onlyin the immortalityof youth. I'd forgottenlife has limitsnot inflicted by your hand.That your heart could cease to beatwithout your forcing it.

3. GüiroAs if I could reach your body by escaping mineI ran from it. Hollowedto prepubescence, I searchhands over ribs to rememberthe child I waswhen you were.When we were fifteenthey poured new sidewalks [End Page 50]

in our neighborhood.We pressed our palms upon the surface,wiped sand-slick residueacross each other's jeans. By nighttimethe denim had gone stiffaround our thighs, entombing us.Necessitating a removal.You were my first boyand I gave myself to youthe way fresh concreteyields to pressure: certain of the gesture's permanence.

Three years lateryou were dead and I

still live

with your handsupon my chest.

I want to summon you by touch,not speech or writing. Like your lipson my neck, sparking soundless,unplanned fucksagainst your kitchen counter,glasses shaking in the cabinetlike music. What was promised bythe rise of your breath. I wantyour name to be meaninglessunless it conjures you.

4. HesperidesAs a child I hated loose teeth,refusing to work them in my gumsto entice their falling out.Locking my mouth around them.Thus age five, [End Page 51]

my first hospitalization.Is there anything we can get, the doctors said,that you would eat? Years later, the same question,because swallowing reminded methat you could not. Is there anythingBring him back. An impossible task,the labors of Hercules.Bring me an appleof the Hesperides. Feed it to him,I'll take the second bite. I want to watch himclear his throat.

5. AuroraFor months after your first attempt,you were only allowed to shavewhile supervised. Either your motheror me, watching small hairsfall into the sinklike exclamation points. She locked the razorsin your father's gun safe.In a dream I make a pileof all the knives in your kitchen,like the spinning wheels in Sleeping Beauty.The smell of lighter fluid.You forgot one, you say,sliding it along your wrist andI am screaming, in bednext to someone who never knew you. [End Page 52]

Isabel Henderson

Isabel Henderson received her fiction mfa from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a BA from Princeton University. Her work has previously appeared in The Atlantic. She lives in Iowa City.



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pp. 49-52
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