James Swansbrough

Last Time

we had to stretch her out flat
on the living room ottoman &
I had to straddle her chest with my legs
to pin her arms at her sides
while my wife braced her head with her
hands for steadiness so I could
clamp her lower jaw with one hand
& fumble around in the cacophony
of her fire alarm mouth until I got
enough thumb-&-fingertip grip
on the loose tooth to pull it with no resistance
as you would remove a cocklebur from your socks
but yeah it bled & she continued screaming
until I left the room & she didn’t talk to me
for a day even after the Tooth Fairy unloaded
a fortune under her pillow in trade for
a half-decayed discolored baby incisor
& you could tell me the fable of
Androcles & The Lion but all I’ll remember was
unbridled savagery & her crimson snarl
of contempt & my fingerprints on the sink
after this parental act of misery/mercy
my bright red whorls & arches having left
unmistakable impressions in her blood

James Swansbrough‘s work has appeared in Free State Review, Cagibi, Freshwater Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Streetlight Magazine, Watershed Review, and other publications. He was named Honorable Mention for the 2019 Yeats Poetry Award by the WB Yeats Society of New York. He runs a restaurant equipment repair company in Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and daughters.