Matt Mauch

Half a human tooth shares roughly the same make-up as one of the chunks you masticate
a handful of peanut M&Ms into,

and said half tooth can get swallowed easier than you’d think,

and my fear that the sharp portion of tooth that remained in my mouth
might cut my tongue escalated into my fear that the portion of tooth inside me

would lead to bleeding (also inside me) like impressionist paintings
no bandages can sop.

To put off thoughts of death
by swallowed tooth

I’m pretending I’m a secret agent
with quadruple or quintuple, or even more allegiances than that.

I’m not a nymph or fairy, but may be both

a nymph and fairy helper. This isn’t a hair suit,
but it may be a suit made of light.

Tonight I’ll see how the moths respond.

There was this man before Shakespeare’s time
who at nearly 9,000 meters delivered, extemporaneously,

the speech now more famously known as Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy.
This man, a Sherpa, had nothing to say at sea level, after the climb.

He only smiled widely, such that those at the café thought him simple.
I was smiling like that before you asked me, What are you thinking?

When it’s not me but you smiling the simple smile, then shaking it off, as if to say,
Sorry, I’ve been at other altitudes,

I wonder if what I feel is you reaching inside me to see if your hand’s
the one I’ve been waiting for, that can dislodge the tooth,

making you king of me. A long, long time ago, I stood

like bullet-eating jelly between the gun
and its intended target.

I can’t tell you if the target was you, in case the bullet hears me.

I may have meant bullet when I said tooth, and tooth, I think you know,
is an old stand-in for

it’s like we were destined to be.


Matt Mauch is the author of Bird~Brain, If You’re Lucky Is a Theory of Mine, Prayer Book, and the chapbook The Brilliance of the Sparrow. He edits the journal Poetry City, USA, and lives in Minneapolis.

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