Thursday, September 08, 2005

Toothbrush Redux

Here it is again. Tinkered with. I heeded your suggestions, anonymous.
Did I heed well?


Mumbai, India

His youth of
two-and-a-half American bathrooms, one sibling, so no
doubts about what was whose,
he doesn’t quite get this

supermarket promotion’s free engraving of your name
on the handle with purchase
of toothbrush. His must be the first: Despite the engraver’s shadow
hard over the sharp-eyed apprentice’s shoulder,

their machine wiped to a precisely white incisor’s
approximation of sterility,
they have to start over four times
on fresh brushes. Swinging door interruptions. The street’s

black-eyed clatter,
a bandage-for-a-sari beggar’s dropped
cup restraining her leashed monkey’s foaming lunge,
their shared mirage’s

banana-laden and mutton-weighted
sleep like being cut wide open
and dumped empty for good.
His smirk’s imperfect. It wanders

a little too far to the right and smolders
around his earlier fall for
that milk powder scam so fusty
even its perpetrators can’t believe it still works.

He blames those tiny-on-the-hot-
jagged-sidewalk bare feet of the young girls.
A flanking flirtation, flame-smart
framing their pitch with a pinky’s

dab of ash around each eye, the essence
of hunger’s raw daintiness.
That disgusting percentage he bet
the shopkeeper kept

when, soon as he turned the corner,
they returned to be sold again
that tin of milk powder he’d purchased for their “little sister.”
Close to ten dollars.

A price that even his shopaholic aunt in New Brunswick pronounces
via email so outrageous for India it should’ve
shocked him instantly to running.
He toys with having them engrave

settles on his parents’ schnauzer’s name, Dudley.
Sometimes his mother
brushes Dudley’s teeth;

that was a toothbrush
it made sense to label.


At 11:40 AM, Blogger Chris said...

A flanking flirtation, flame-smart
framing their pitch with a pinky’s

dab of ash around each eye, the essence
of hunger’s raw daintiness.

DAMN, Pete!

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete-- I was the anonymous who complained about your use of the word "tiny" because like a moron I was reading tiny as a noun instead of as an adjective. Your hyphens clarified what tiny was supposed to mean. Thanks. I also agree with cf that I love that pinky's dash line. It's a great poem!

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love the last line.

interesting juxtaposition between the beggars of india and the american who buys a toothbrush for a dog.

without the accompanying photo - i'm not sure about the title. will readers be confused, or will they know it's a quote from the toothbrush engraving stand? or will they think the narrator is saying "my brush has my name" and that's why it's in quotes? i do love that the stand's advertisement says "my brush has my name" but part of why it's so endearing is that i know that's where the quote is from.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger pete. said...

That's an excellent point! I had wondered about running the photo alongside the first draft because I think the poem should be able to stand on its own, of course. But I had the photo and I had just learned to use the scanner and...
The majority of the poems in the manuscript have the words of a sign for a title and I was hoping that context would make things clear. What I'll do is try to make the poem's first italicized/indented line do more work,see if I can make it clear. Thanks a lot for pointing outthis problem.


At 10:19 AM, Blogger Slick said...

You could use the title of the collection to indicate the origin of the poem titles, or include a brief explanation at the beginning of the collection. This may relieve you of the cumbersome task of explanation in each first indented line of each poem.

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like it better without the picture (although the picture is classic). I like leaving the title up to the reader to think about why it's in quotes. Whether the reader understands that it's a quote from the name on the store sign or not, the title still works.


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