My Father Forgets His Teeth

They pop up in unusual places--
on top of his dinner plate,
next to the mashed potatoes.

It's easier to gum the food.
Between sofa cushions.
They fell out while he was sleeping.
Underneath the elm tree, but the trunk.
He takes them out to relax.

He didn't even wear them
for our family picture.

Just couldn't find them that day.

When the proofs came back, I learned
my father has two poses: his smile
a cavernous hole, his serious look
a cave collapsing in on itself.
My mother cried when she saw the samples.

We didn't buy any.

My father remembers where his real teeth are.
When they started to fall out, one by one,
he put them in a green juice glass
on top of his night stand. They're still there,
tobacco staned yellow. Maybe he thinks one day
he'll tip his head and that cup back,
and his old teeth, his real teeth, will fall back in--
and take root.

Paula Hilton