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Teeth Three Inches From Now

Donald Illich

“Must not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?”
                                       Plato, Dialogues, Phaedo

I’m a toddler. I wait for teeth
to come in. It seems like forever.
I want to accidentally bite mom’s
breasts. Chewing food is much
better than sucking stewed peas
down. Three inches from now,
as measured by life’s ruler, I’ll
leap onto the yardstick of failure.
The bursting of gums for little
nubs that’ll soon fall out at six.
Let them be permanent. Stop
time from erupting like a volcano.
Don’t wish to meet the “Tooth Fairy.”
A quarter’s not enough to hush me.
I’ll nip at your fingers when you
try to put me to sleep. The womb.
That’s where it all went wrong,
when I departed that anteroom for
pain and teething. A plastic ring,
drops of alcohol in my bottle, a
cramped crib, will not quiet me
for long. Soon enough I’ll walk
around with a stupefied look on
my face. Not because everything’s
beautiful. I’m stunned by breathing.
It treacherously slows down when
dad holds me, says, I’m here, don’t
be scared, I’ll always be around
for you.
Don’t you know all this is
a horror, that this is my nightmare?

Donald Illich

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