Fall 2009 / Issues / Poetry 2009 / Volume 40

The Myth of Washington’s Wooden Dentures — Douglas Collurd

Give me the bleeding statues.

His tall forehead is touched by a descending finger of light, his torso bulges the picture

       frame like an oak. He bears no smile lines or drooping nostrils or jowls of despair.

       But it was said that something jealous in the hollow of a tree put a curse on his infant


Cracking pine nuts with each bite down to the last tooth, he grew too big for words to

       travel through.

A child counted the legs of the horses going by, his eyes tilted all the way up. “Look,

       Mother. A fence floating in the sky!” A glimpse of a giant’s fleeting smile.

His head that fits on a quarter, the dollar, the side of a mountain, fit especially well on his

       neck. He was a rock of silence before freezing men in boats as rickety as

       wooden dentures.

When he recalled the one Founding Father who followed women in the Philadelphia

       night confiding to him that accessibility was a greater pleasure than perfection, his

       mouth would clench like an oak door that the wind had slammed shut.

In his dream, he was meeting with his cabinet. His lieutenant shuffled a stack of gold

       coins. The redhead clung to an edge and brooded. He never trusted brooders.

       The water in the room reached his chest. He said, “Gentleman.” But his teeth

       weren’t riding well in his mouth and it came out, “General gems.”

President twice, he declined a third, spitting out power like a broken tooth. He traveled

       home to his mountain, his wife, and the humans he owned who couldn’t afford even

       wooden dentures.

Nights. By his bed in a cup of water. Floating.

After surveying his fields in snow, he took dinner soaked to a chill. Adamant, straight-

       backed, he refused to be cold. But later one of the servants swore he heard soggy

       latches clicking.

With the good doctor bleeding him into oblivion, and Martha hovering near, a part of his

       mind feverishly reached for Sally’s dress, and out from parted wooden dentures,

       came longing’s last unsatisfied breath.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s