Teething by M. Brett Gaffney

Sonny’s in her bare feet
on the kitchen counter trying
to fit a bowl into her mouth.
There’s no food in it but
still she swirls her tongue
around the bottom
like she’s mixing batter.
Her teeth have grown
too big, too long for her
to play with the neighbor
kids anymore.

Sometimes I wish Mama
was still here. She always
made my sister understand.
Mama would have shown
Sonny how we do it, how to
keep the growling down deep
in the throat so as not to scare
the prey, how to save her
human teeth, string them together
like stars, make necklaces
to forget the pain of losing them.

But I do my best—
brought a woman home
last night, drunk, her heels
two clumsy hooves
on our trailer steps.
And when I asked her
to sit on the couch, I hoped
Sonny would know what to do,
know this meant dinner. Instead
she crawled onto the woman’s lap,
and both fell asleep in minutes.

An hour before dawn, I found them curled
round each other, Sonny’s face tucked
in the crook of the dead woman’s arm,
her wet smacks a sign she is learning,
her eyes two half moons on the rise.


Brett Gaffney, born in Houston, Texas, holds an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is an associate editor of Gingerbread House literary magazine. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Stone Highway Review, Slipstream, Wind, Penduline, Cactus Heart, Exit 7, Still: the Journal, Permafrost, Scapegoat Review, Rogue Agent, and Zone 3, among others.

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