Mandible, Maxilla | Valerie Loveland
Valerie Loveland is the author of Reanimated, Somehow (Scrambler Books). Her poetry has been featured in Dzanc Book's anthology Best of the Web and the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. She enjoys running, silent movies, audio poetry, and cat videos. She is a Math/Computer Science student, works as an optician, and is a regular at open mics around Boston, Massachusetts.
"The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off"
The Wall Street Journal wrote a scurrilous headline
about my boyfriend. Eben McBurney Byers
drank so much radium water, our kisses shimmered.
A robust socialite, his hair dark
with pomade. Everything was going so well
until his jaw came off. A jaw
will answer the door and let anyone in,
soaks in necrosis.
My dental hygienist asked if I worked in a match factory.
I denied my occupation until she flicked off the light switch.
My teeth: a light source, jaw bones:
phosphorous-drenched. I haven't been flossing.
She thinks I am developing phossy jaw.
I haven't touched white phosphorus
in months. The Salvation Army switched our factory
to red phosphorus. The hygienist should examine her own
dead finger, I suspect
her waterpik shook her nerves and vessels loose.
One can work in a matchstick factory for 5 years
One can drink radium water for 3 years.
Before Eben died, we had twins, named them
When I kissed Eben's hands in the dark,
I saw their skeleton outline.
He took off my nightgown, traced
the branches of my lungs glowing through my chest.