Four Children, Fifty-Seven Envelopes

Tonight, at the back fence, on my knees
in the bed where pumpkin vines
have turned to ogres,
I’m hiding teeth, enamelled seeds,
two knuckles deep
in the cold earth.

Grandma had a drawer full of milk teeth
folded away in envelopes.
A cluster of ballpoint dates and names
in the place where the stamp should go.
They only had one home. It feels traitorous
to take them away, pack them in a strange drawer.

They’ve chewed life
into her sons and daughters,
been knocked out of heads
in backyard footy games,
bitten into apples,
fallen between fingers into freedom.

I know they’re only teeth
they could never taste,
all they had was force.
They shouldn’t mean anything

but I can imagine them grinning.
I can see my mother fussing
a clot of bone from her gum.
They deserve a place to settle, rest

from eavesdropping. This ground
has a taste for lost words; I’ve already buried
three wedding rings in the soil —
my fingers crave dirt.

Rico Craig