Now I brush my teeth,
enameled finish once white and bright,
now dull and slightly yellowed with the years,
coffee stains and fissured with hair-thin lines.
The bristles of the brush cross back and forth
and up and down in frenzied search
for organic orts and screeds lodged between each tooth,
and I adjust my glasses so’s to closely check
for some resistant morsel—
shred of roast beef or spinach holding fast—
that will potentially finance my dentist’s son or daughter
to a ritzy school in New York, Chicago, or Chapel Hill.
Ah, you were once pretty pearls,
even when the eye teeth came out crooked
and had to be tinkered with in earnest.
Now discolored, chipped in spots,
a silver filling here, a gold one there,
two or three disguised in some kind of white amalgam.
Combat weary, you still fight on, stout and stalwart fellows!
The brush withdrawn,
the mouth rinsed in what tastes like pesticide,
I give the mirror a cheesy grin,
salute my battle-worn warhorses,
and start the day.
“Laddie, lower your claws,”
was my father’s demand,
and I, faithful son,
submissive to command,
applied thumbs and eight nails
to his bare back without pause.
He yelled and he screamed,
he moaned and he groaned
He cried, “Take the money, boy!
And also the home!”
Such is the plight
of backscratchee’s delight.
Note: My dad loved to have his back scratched and, I kid you not, those quotes above actually came from his lips, word for word. He was a most amusing man, God bless him. He told me that back in the late 1920s and early ’30s, when television had not yet been invented, for entertainment he, his parents, and his siblings would form a circle, each facing the back of another family member, stretch out their fingers and begin to scratch the back of the person in front of them.
English being a tongue of confounding complexity,
may cause in all of us some degree of perplexity.
Words that spell the same may mean two different objects,
like the bark of a tree or the bark of a dog that objects,
or even words that sound the same, like aunts and ants.
So when Granny grouched she’d rodents in her drawers,
I wasn’t sure she meant the dresser or her underpants.
Going to hell in a handbasket,
today an allegorical locution
involving no casket
—though once held to require
a gruesome execution—
is defined as heading for disaster,
be it without remorse,
sans recourse to a pastor.
As one theory goes,
a handbasket was first used
in the French Revolution
for displaced heads abused
by guillotine, the solution
to go straight to hell…
(do not pass go,
do not collect dough)
…and without absolution.
Note: This one is the result of a prompt suggested in the writing group I belong to: “Why do we go to Hell in a handbasket? What is it about handbaskets that make them so well suited for venturing into the underworld?” I did a little research on the subject, and no one seems to know for sure the true origin of the the allegorical locution, but there were a number of theories, the above being one of them.
Baton-twirling has ever been my passion,
…not to mention baton twirlers’ fashion.
It may seem easy to some,
the flip of four fingers
with the help of a thumb.
Hurled high, there it lingers,
then down it comes spinning,
leaving me grinning,
out of breath with the tension,
that somehow instead…
it might land on someone’s head.
Dueling can be grueling,
but a sardonic smile without guile
can often be vile.