After She Gets Her Braces Off – a poem by Elizabeth Crowell

AFTER SHE GETS HER BRACES OFF
 
my daughter sits with her seatbelt on,
pigtail up, pulling her lips up
to the rear-view mirror's small island
that glimmers in the November sun.
 
She opens and closes her mouth,
snapping her teeth together each time.
She looks left, right, at each side
of her beautiful, freckled face,
 
She goes back over the years,
fifth grade, the palette expander,
medieval torture device, and then
the brackets and brands as she grew.
 
Years of metal have gone 
and now, an ivory flash.
Oh, the teeth are slimy, she reports,
wagging her thick, pink tongue across them. 
 
Those years I sat in the waiting room
with its pictures of speckled trout,
Maine cliffs, a scout in olive knee socks
leaning on a stick over a mountain.
 
Of course, I was afraid of straightening her out,
did not mind at all that her bite bent,
would change nothing about her,
but it is not that way, of course.
 
There are reasons we cannot stay
exactly as we are, and she grins so widely
perhaps she thinks
today is the end of that.
 
 

Elizabeth Crowell was born and raised in New Jersey.  She has a B.A. in English from Smith College and an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University.  She has taught high school and college English.  She lives outside Boston with her wife and two children.  

Her work has been included in The Bellevue Literary Review, where it has twice won the non-fiction prize, Tishman ReviewRaven’s Edge and most recently Levee.  

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