Yesterday your mother mailed you
nine of your baby teeth wrapped in plastic,
no return address. I named you.
Not your father. She kept one molar
for her back pocket.
In the first year of your life
your anklebones were soft
and your gums bled constantly.
Your mother taught you
how to scrub bruises from skin,
how to sponge the blood caked
in the lining of your palms. Pressed
your swollen face into the water.
Anything can be cleansed
if you try hard enough.
Once a deer ate from your palms—
eyes still wild. You were alone
and it was alone. You held
your breath so it wouldn’t smell
the decay. At home you taped
sycamore leaves to the wall,
watched them wither, veins drying.
Your mother tried to rip
the bones out of her hometown,
stuff them in her purse,
tuck streetlights behind her ear.
She was raised by gin and rough hands
telling her what to do. Morning—
ten minutes of concealer, powder,
foundation and all is new again.
No more purple lace.
The ocean swallows everything.
There is no bruise like the stones
collected on the cusp of beach.
You spit salt. You flail in crushes
while she smiles at the lifeguard,
pretend he’s looking back,
lines her thin lips strawberry pink.
Your mother kept a knife
in her bedside drawer any night
she slept alone, waiting
for the front door to unpeel
from its hinges.
You sprawl textbooks
over the table, vocabulary
like metal gripped in your teeth,
Asphyxia, as in a lack
of oxygen, as in a stack of pillows,
as in it’s been three days
since she’s left her room
and even the wallpaper is afraid to breathe.
You found blue glass
on the beach, nestled
next to a horseshoe crab corpse.
You splintered open the meatless
skeleton and kept the bones.
When she left, she kept the glass.