by Amanda Roth
In the dream where all of her teeth fall out, tonight she lets them. They fly from her
mouth on black wings and she buries them in the black dirt of the garden where they
will blacken like an accepted sacrifice. She crawls through the darkness until it gives way
beneath her and she falls backward, down the staircase leading nowhere. She hears
nothing, sees nothing. Perhaps tonight she is nothing. She screams but her mouth is a
still-tender void and she makes no sound. This is where she usually wakes up, but she is
in the backseat of her granny’s green Chrysler and Rush Limbaugh is driving. Granny
flicks a cigarette out the cracked passenger window, pets the snake coiled on her lap.
Our girl cups the car’s cigarette lighter in her hands, calls it lipstick, lets herself taste its
flame. The car goes up in flames. Granny stitches her mouth shut and is gone. The snake
wraps itself around her ankle. Our girl shuts her eyes and she might be dead but she
remembers another story like this — when Death tried to eat her but she unstitched her
jaw and swallowed Death whole, did not crunch its bones. Have her teeth always been
gone? She opens her eyes and the moon is a fish with a bite taken out. Below it, there is a
door. Though the house is dark and smells like skin pooling around softened bones, she
still remembers the way to the stairs. Down again. Down. Down. She is naked. She is a
pile of bones, a story without sinew. She is forgotten by everyone except the snake’s slick
shadow stalking the corners. Ray Bradbury sits in the basement. He always has the same
thing to say: Listen. There are bones stacked for burning that never burn. Her lips
burn. What she seeks is seeking her. There are corners she cannot see — still-tender
voids that her eyes slide over. When her granny appears, the birds circle but do not land.
She stands over the bones and screams. In her hand is a molar. No — a cigarette. No — a
snake. She runs and runs and runs but cannot see the oncoming car. No — the fish with
the bite taken out. No — the bones stacked for burning.
until she falls
the backseat of her granny’s green Chrysler
snake taste s
her mouth and
swallow s her teeth
Down again. Down. Down. She is a
in the basement. a void that eyes
She runs and runs and runs but cannot
w ake .
Amanda Roth (she/her) is a poet and folklorist living in Central Texas. Her debut poetry collection, A Mother’s Hunger, was released in 2021. Her work has been curated by Portland Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kissing Dynamite, and elsewhere. Follow her at https://msha.ke/amandarothpoetry.