There’s a tooth beneath your pillow, little one,
though it’s not the tooth you lost. A creature of dust
beneath your bed, a strangeness in the closet,
made of wire and shirts and empty coats.
There’s a hole in sleep to fall through, barely
ever climbing out of. A dream is you
as much as daylight is, wherever daylight is.
It rounds the world like a rocket.
It might lie down where grandfather
and mother wait like seeds in their furrows.
Shapes in the dark are stirring; that’s
the real room you live in – the restless shapes
and the wonderful dark. When a tooth falls out,
they bring you money, yes, but it isn’t enough,
and there’s still a tooth beneath your pillow,
though never the one you lost.
Max Garland’s latest book is The Word We Used for It, winner of the Brittingham Poetry Prize. Born in Kentucky, he worked for many years as a rural letter carrier on the route where he was born. He attended Western Kentucky University, where his undergraduate advisor, reviewing his meandering academic record, told him his “only hope” was to become a poet, which he still considers an irresponsible thing to tell any kid. He is currently professor emeritus at UW-Eau Claire, served as Eau Claire’s Writer-in-Residence, and is the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin. Read more by and about Max here.