Teeth by Lori Baker Martin

I got slapped once 13963067_1176775912364619_3211281957139442164_o
for arguing with my uncle
at a family dinner.
My mother looked hard at
but didn’t speak.
Girls ought to be seen
and not heard,
one of the aunts said
through a mouth
as tight as a sewn seam.

Cousin Cobb said, Remember
Great Aunt Billie?
She’d smelled
like burnt leaves,
made turnips
nobody ever ate.
Her eyes were tunnels.
She had no teeth.
She didn’t speak.

You know why, Cobb said.
Liz said, She was going to tell them.
That’s what my mom told me.
She was going to tell
what Uncle Lack did.

Yellowed wedding photo,
straight teeth smile,
eyes dark and unashamed,
hair braided in a kind of crown.

Now I see a blue tin cup
on the pantry shelf,
full of white teeth,
pulled out by the roots
and rinsed clean.


Lori Baker Martin is Assistant Professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), Room Magazine, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices. She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin, Poetry Editor for The Midwest Quarterly, is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

Laura Lee Washburn, Guest-Editor, is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review. Harbor Review‘s microchap prize is named in her honor.


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