Listen:

Her teeth were blue. Not bright
blue by any stretch. More like
she’d been eating blueberries
and her teeth had gotten stained,
perhaps because her enamel
had been rendered more porous
due to the lemon curd, and then
a team of experts had arrived,
removing their jackets and rolling
up their sleeves to use their tiny
brushes to scrub her teeth
with some kind of gritty paste,
yet that blue tint had nonetheless
hung on. Yes. It was more like
something white remembering
the idea of blue than blue
itself. Other than that, she was
perfectly normal. Her slightly
heathered sweater, her jeans,
the way her hair fell across her
eyes and needed to be tucked
in tendrils behind her ears, but
then she’d smile and a slight
chill would fall across the room.

This is how we knew she had
already died at least once. Maybe
twice. Yet she had no idea. She
would hold her wine and toss
her hair and smile and say, Maybe
I’ll call my next book The Bible
so I know my mother will read it!
And we would laugh jovially
while still feeling a slight whinge
somewhere in our bodies, a place
near the liver, under organs
we could not possibly name.

Yet occasionally, if the night
was cold and wine emptied easily
from the bottle as we tore rough
hunks from the baguette, she’d say
things that made us wonder, like,
“Sometimes I just get so sick
of all this stuff, you know? I walk
into a store to buy deodorant
and eighty dollars later I’m holding
all this stuff made by children
in Malaysia or Guatemala
and I think, What is the point?”

Or, “Yesterday, driving home
from yoga, I passed this woman
standing at a bus stop, completely
resigned, and I thought, How
long has it been since she’s felt
totally alive? You know? Like
when is the last time someone
walked up behind her and traced
his finger along her shoulder
because he happened to think
she was beautiful?” The blue
of her teeth disappeared in these
late-night ruminations, swallowed
up by the dusky candlelight.
It was possible to think she was
just a young woman, her life
still unfurling before her while
the rest of us traded quiet glances,
knowing all her tenderness
had never really had a chance.

Illustration by Ansellia Kulikku.

Michael Bazzett

Michael Bazzett’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Sun, 32 Poems, Copper Nickel, and The Iowa Review. He is the author of three poetry collections—You Must Remember This (winner of the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry), Our Lands Are Not So Different (Horsethief 2017), and The Interrogation (Milkweed 2017)—as well as a forthcoming verse translation of the Mayan creation epic, The Popol Vuh (Milkweed). The recipient of a 2017 NEA Fellowship in Poetry, he lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.