The Skyline of a Missing Tooth

By Sherwin Bitsui b. 1975 Sherwin Bitsui
The ice hook untwists inside the whirlwind like a tail.

A raven’s rib ripped from the electric socket
     heats the palm,
its rusted core bound by the apple’s shaven hide.

Like a concussion cushioned between fingertips—
     egg batter congeals in cracks of concrete.

     The fourth generation of bees flee the unlocked mouth.

The stoplight blinks
midway between wing, beak, and worm
     unwinding inside braided corn husk,
     pulsing near the foot of the interrogator
          as he slams the gate shut.

The interrogator,
     Every atom belonging to him, says:
You there—hook and worm,
you there—carved pebbles tucked under the glacier,
your apathy grows like gray hair in these untied shoes.

The tundra’s anvil and spine
     are flung back into the quarried pockets of the pilgrim.

The “safe feeling” blossoms next to the caged wren.

Motor oil trickles from the harpooned log.

The Milky Way backbones the nervous system of the stream the deer sips.

This is where I broke the ice,

broke the sun’s neck,
     and the city raised its sunflower above a pond of gathered lice.

The storm took care of it!
Reached down, hammered them flat.
Walls erected, stoned down, down,
and as we fled,
     we unbraided our hair from the fan belt of the exhumed engine.

          One twin kissed the other in the uncovered wagon.

We watched them unravel from their neckties,
and took the shape of rain clouds blotting out the noon sun.

In their houses—
          The long night gloved the mist inside our gills.

And I stained the plaques clean,
memorized each brick flung from the window,
     while roosters crowed the grip loose.

Who made them leap from shelves unnamed?
Made them buckle down low,
pulled out by their tails
     from between each lie cupped inside another one?

A spear was driven into it—
     Underneath the pilgrim’s skirt:
          the skyline of a missing tooth.

Sherwin Bitsui, “The Skyline of a Missing Tooth” from Shapeshift. Copyright © 2003 by Sherwin Bitsui. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003)

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Poet Sherwin Bitsui b. 1975

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather

 Sherwin  Bitsui


Sherwin Bitsui, a Diné (Navajo) from the Navajo Reservation in White Cone, Arizona, received an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing Program. He is the author of the poetry collections Shapeshift (2003) and Flood Song (2009).
Steeped in Native American culture, mythology, and history, Bitsui’s poems reveal the tensions in the intersection of Native American and contemporary urban culture. His poems . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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