If “alignment of jaws and teeth” is set by
“use [of] cutlery during formative years,”
orthodontics is sisyphean. I’m unhappy
more than I’ll admit, but what’s to blame?

What knife and fork cut up the information
fed me, shaping my mind’s jaws and teeth
to bite misaligned, and reinforced in
misalignment by tools I’ve had to use?

Our ancestors tore food with incisors,
avoiding the overbite cut meat encourages,
that top-teeth smile regarded as beautiful.
Beauty’s shaped by what we learn to expect.

I sat in the chair, pinned there by lamplight
limning all flaws my open mouth availed,
the Dr’s daughter a shadowy blue smock,
beautiful face framed by straight, brown hair.

After three years they pulled the braces off.
I ran my tongue cross slick teeth—my smile
now matching that of the woman flossing
bloodless gums, in a frame, near the exit—

while the retainer came two weeks later,
credential signaling completion
and submission, a Boy Scout patch,
wedding ring or steak, rare, ready to eat.

Chris Davidson’s poems and writing have appeared in ZyzzyvaSpoon River Poetry ReviewThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He is poetry editor at The Curator. He lives with his family in Southern California.

Aaron Belz is a poet and the author of The Bird Hoverer (BlazeVOX, 2007) and Lovely, Raspberry (Persea, 2010). His third book, Glitter Bomb, is due out next February from Persea. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

The quotations in the first two lines are from “Consider the Fork, Very Carefully,” by Alexandra Lange, posted on The New Yorker’s website on November 29, 2012.

*Photo courtesy of Eric Horst.
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