War Plaque

I’m sorry

in the way a hyena is sorry

when she discovers she’s been

gnawing on her own leg

incisors slipping saliva into flesh so familiar.

My limbs feel damp

and fold drab

and flail merciless.

I know now how to strip lips off of teeth to snarl

I lock my jaw hard and swallow quickly

I am sorry.

They framed my picture at the dentist office back home

my mom told me she didn’t tell me that

they didn’t bother to find a new frame

that my four inch ghost hovers about a plaque

that reads:

Plaque Free!

Ma, my tongue is a wriggling pink insect

grafted to my throat

splayed and scuttling in a cave

of tiny porcelain gravestones.

Tapping a muffled staccato

on plaque-less macabre captors

Writhing to wriggle free unbound to

what is not now

not here.

If I have sons, I will name them

Numbers

so they will know from the beginning

how they will be seen.

If have daughters, I will name them

Silent

so they will know from the beginning

how they should be.

I am both a son and a daughter:

A silent number.

And this wriggling pink creature

For all it’s squirming cannot

twist right

cannot contort into a shape

that can call stop

call help call out I recall

flowers before their bend looked

like cracked spines

the way my finger tip rested

easily between my teeth rows

Before it had delicately

ripped open

a human face

Ma, I’m sorry.

I had braces twice,

and yet my smile feels so

crooked.

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