“She looked into his mouth and saw the whole universe displayed therein beyond his oral threshold. –Bhagavata Purana

Usually, when I would lock my elbows
on the bathroom sink
and open my mouth wide in front of the mirror,

I would see teeth and a quivering tongue
and that little glistening punching bag
that hangs from the roof of the mouth.

But now, I look past all that,
past the factory of mastication
into the darkness of the throat

where you can see universes created
and destroyed, world spinning in and out of being,
a cosmos blossoming then closing its petals.

I never understood why anyone
would want to be a dentist until today,
but back in bed, reading the book of the ceiling,

I still do not understand why anyone
would choose to be a podiatrist
or work in a brightly lit store that sells mattresses.


From 2001-2003, Billy Collins served as the United States poet laureate and as the New York State Poet in 2004. He has published numerous books of poetry including an audio recording called The Best Cigarette, Picnic, Lightning in 1998, bestseller Sailing Alone Around the Room in 2001, and his latest collection The Trouble with Poetry.

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