yet still, they smile

the single mother-of-three with a week-old messy bun opens her mouth
and i see enamel carcasses, moth-bitten
gnawed away by a decade-long meth addiction
anxiety grinding down her cusps into tetrominos
that bite when trying to fit together
last month she almost killed herself
and the shadows have continued to skulk in her sulcus
yet still, she smiles

the elderly pensioner with a rusted walker opens his mouth
and i see pink gums on pink tongue
twenty-nine teeth harvested already
only three still left out in the cold
something dark has creeped into the gums, loosened them
a canine quivers in the breeze of a shaky breath
tongue withered from a cornucopia of medications
yet still, he smiles

the prepubescent skeleton with wrist scars opens her mouth
and i see teeth penned behind a row of barbed wire
bulimia licking clean the backs of her incisors
the ‘last’ kgs before goal weight caught
at the back of her throat, too far back for fingers
peer pressure burning a chasm into her palate
panic attacks burrowing a home in the fissures of her molars
yet still, she smiles

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34 thoughts on “yet still, they smile

  1. bothellboy says:

    i don’t know, but i guess that you work in a dental clinic that caters to those most challenged by everyday life. the images are stark and wonderful, the meaning subtle, yet powerful. thank you for sharing it. john

    Liked by 1 person

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