I run my finger over the braille
of its perforated history, to stall
the moment before I open its cover
and see her again. It’s not her face,
or not her whole face, that makes my heart kick,
but knowing that below the nimbus of black hair,
beach-glass green eyes, I’ll find
the two poorly-hung shingles of her front teeth,
heavy above her thick lower lip.
Mother knew beauty. Longed for it
the way an iced street longs for sun,
and yet each morning turned
that face to the world. I saw
others startle, watched
her force her mouth shut
like a too tight coat. And still.
And still there were times
I dropped her hand
when school friends neared, failed
to return her wave
after my dance recital
that she paid for with money
that could have fixed
Tina Barry is the author of Beautiful Raft and Mall Flower. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in The Best Small Fictions 2020 (spotlighted story) and 2016, The American Poetry Journal, Nasty Women Poets, A Constellation of Kisses anthology and elsewhere. She has three Pushcart Prize and several Best of the Net nominations.