| words that get in your teeth

The Bones My Mother Left Me by Erica Perry

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(after Beau Taplin)

I am here to tell you what your mother can’t:
Your body is not a temple.

You are not some fragile thing that crumbles.
You will not be irreparably damaged when the earth shakes
or when fire ravages your rooftop.
The flood will not leave lines when the tide recedes.
You are not vacant halls.
Your spaces are not cluttered by looming statues of the dead.


Your body is a garden.
When the earth shakes you will sway.
When wildfires sweep through,
let them radiate.

Warm your soil.
Blister everyone on your terrain.
And when the water rises
you will let off steam,
a sigh of relief,
filling you with a wake of decay.
New life will grow there one day.

Memories are casualties
you will sometimes wonder if worth resuscitating.
Try to decide if it’s worth keeping alive.
But you stay
to scavenge the bones left inside of you.

Here is every baby tooth your mother collected from you:
something you can hold onto.
Love is keeping bits of someone’s being
tucked away for them to find one day,
like a bone collector.
Like an archeologist,
discovering your own remains.
Unearthing parts you never thought
anyone would want to keep.


So that one day,
you may swallow them back up
to remind yourself of who you once were.
Those smallest parts of you:
let them bloom and grow,
rise from the pit of your stomach,
like watermelon seeds.
Like beanstalks.
When you die
there will be flowers arranged in your eyes,
sprouting from what you once knew.
Parts that you already grew
but, with time, forgot.

Let the spiders of your veins build homes in the tendrils.
Let them climb the lattice of your ribcage
so when you open your mouth,
what comes out
is the sweet weight of jasmine in bloom,
sighs like fog on coastal redwoods,
the sharp juice of spring’s first fruit
with seeds like teeth.

A gift,
given back to you.

Erica lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and likes to have staring contests with her cat. She is a ray of sunshine who moonlights as a poet. Her attempts to write about life always end up being poems about death, and all attempts to write about death are poems about love.

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