Strange Putty

Now there is something tired in my face,
in the shadows of my mouth,
so that even when I smile you
know I am lying.  I am
embarrassed of this, yet see this tired smile
in three other women.  We just smile
while under our skin and through our organs
cracks crawl.  We are frightened at falling
into the cracks, or worse, becoming them.
We don’t talk out loud about this.  We walk
down hallways and mountain trails
with mouths full of teeth that decay and crumble
in night dreams.  We wake surprised to run tongues
over them, planted firmly in flesh. We cry
and make love and make pancakes and poetry.
Perhaps these things are some kind of strange putty.
Or at least, in the mirror, we hope they are because we keep
doing them and haven’t fallen apart yet. A shaky hypothesis:
the mud dries, expands, and sends the cracks on in.

1999

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