My Father’s False Teeth

By Richard Garcia b. 1941 Richard Garcia
I take my dinners alone,
in my room, but I can still
hear them through the door,
my father’s false teeth
clicking like a wooden gate
with a metal latch, swinging
open, swinging closed.
In a water glass at night
they float like an exhibit
in formaldehyde
of a stillborn child.
The nightlight shining
through the glass—
a spelunker’s flashlight
in an underwater cave
illuminating the fossilized
toothed beak of a fierce bird
now extinct. My father’s
false teeth, when he tries
to spit in the toilet, fall in.
Only my hand is small enough
to reach underwater
into the hole and pull them
out from the pipe
where they are wedged
sideways, slightly open.
Sometimes a woman expels
from her womb something
that is all hair and teeth.
George Washington
was said to always dine alone.
His teeth were made of wood,
whalebone, and mastodon ivory.
My father’s false teeth, God’s
first clumsy attempt at wings:
two imprints of a horse’s hooves
in red clay, hinged together,
ringed with small square bones,
too heavy to ever fly.
My father’s false teeth
in the click of computer keys
in the tick tick of the eucalyptus
outside the window
as it twists out of its skin
that falls on the pavement
like sheets of parchment.
A faraway splash in the middle
of the night, I sit up in bed, startled—
it was George Washington throwing
something across the Delaware,
not a coin, but his teeth.

Richard Garcia, “My Father’s False Teeth” from The Persistence of Objects. Copyright © 2006 by Richard Garcia. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Source: The Persistence of Objects (BOA Editions Ltd., 2006)

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Poet Richard Garcia b. 1941


Subjects Living, The Body, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, The Mind, Activities, Indoor Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Richard  Garcia


Poet and writer Richard Garcia was born in San Francisco and started writing in his teenage years. Since then, he has authored various books of poetry, including The Flying Garcias (1991), Rancho Notorious (2001), and The Persistence of Objects (2006). Garcia’s most recent work is a chapbook of prose poems entitled Chickenhead (2009).
Praised by Nobel Prize Winner Octavio Paz for his “emotion…verbal economy [and] tone (the . . .

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SUBJECT Living, The Body, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, The Mind, Activities, Indoor Activities


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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