The Tooth Fairy
The prompt from NaPoMo today suggested a poem that meditates a chosen color. Which led me to an apartment I used to inhabit that was situated behind some tennis courts, this was a source of both rage and entertainment.
It was the cotton that let me know I was a monster.
I cowered from its texture as a creeping thing retreats
from the light of torches. I hissed a little,
which may have been what drew my mother
to the bathroom, the neat circle of metal tools,
paper products, face cloths spiraled around me.
It was better than any school portrait, me playing surgeon,
one side of my overalls open, my fangs
just starting to cut my gums.
The bag of cotton balls had held such promise,
tight, like a bag of marshmallows,
a pillow cased in plastic; no such sweetness,
just a sickening, grating feeling in my fingertips.
I rocketed backward, knocking her manicure set
and pubic scissors behind the toilet,
holding the offended hand as if injured.
My mother sighed; she had already enrolled my brother
in private school, and it took a good part of the afternoon
to file down the nubs on my sister's shoulderblades.
The batwings would win; I think we all knew it.
We would come not to resent her meticulous efforts
to camouflage us; we simply wished we could save her the trouble.
On a school trip, one boy found I could be driven screaming
from a torch of cotton candy; the next one learned
the velocity of my small bony body. Back at home,
I never got a bonus for my baby fangs,
but my mother can hardly be blamed for that.
Like most monsters, I require very little
of the human body to subsist; mainly I feed
on solace. My studio apartment, the twin bed,
the kitchen with its tiny counter.
My first glass of sake of the day gleams white
as the juice of pearls. The boy comes twice a week
with his bag of butcher paper bundles,
I tip him too heavily, fingers turned inward against my palm,
as though a twenty can hide these claws.
My sister does a peep show, a reverse phone booth,
the kind where a quarter opens to a glass pane.
She has no problem with the work,
although she does punch me in the arm
when I call it Monster Porn, “and they take credit cards now,
dummy.” My brother has worked some of the most famous
moats in Europe, a champion
of lurking. As for me, I am best
grading papers in the dark, pouring over
medical textbooks of skin diseases for fun.
Every now and then I'll sit on the balcony
in my white plastic chair while the sun sets behind me,
watching from the third story, the last tennis match of the day.
Then it's over the railing, then the property fence.
It's the grunters that always draw me out
how they uglify the clean sound
of the padded rubber ball
against the grid of synthetic gut.
For anyone who sleeps past noon, the grunters
are a nightmare, but in the mornings I just reach under my pillow
and shake my drawstring bag of teeth to ward off the
proclamation of their effort, I rattle my bag,
soothing as a rain stick, clamoring for an hour,
just one more hour asleep.