Winter 2022 - Poetry

V. Batyko

Milk Teeth

 

My first teeth sprung from mother’s calcium. Some hung

loose like tired breasts begging to be torn away.

I never let them drop off simply— always

the sharp red yank. Then new teeth erupted from my gums,

perfect squares assembled not from her, but from cold

cow’s milk, buttered toast and Babybel cheese. I loved to gnaw

on the red wax wheel, suck up the cream that clots the bottle’s cap.

When sipped milk would settle on my lip, I’d leave it

unwiped, mammal fat orbiting my mouth, proof

that I was still from someone if not her. One cold day

I holed up in a blanket, gorged myself on ice cream,

got sick off a tit I’d never met— sick enough

to give up milk for good, that false comfort corroding

my teeth. I was old enough to know I couldn’t yank them out,

so I started strapping down my breasts. No matter what I did

I could still feel them against me— sharp lumpy creatures filled

with milk’s machinery. Years later, when I went back home to help get rid

of old things, she made comments on my body: how young still,

and how beautiful. I came across a Ziploc bag of baby teeth

in a dusty shoe box— my name written on the side in permanent marker,

her bubbly handwriting smudged. I didn’t open

the bag, just peered through the cloudy plastic

at those jagged calcified losses.

 


V. Batyko is a poet from Los Angeles, California. They hold an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington, where they received the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award from the University of Southern California. Their work has been published in Unbroken and pioneertown, and they were a finalist for Columbia Journal's 2019 Winter Contest.

 


 

 blue arrow curving left

This project is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council

Illinois Arts Council Logo

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.