Poetry by Chanel Brenner

Speaking of Teeth

Mommy, can I push Desmond
in the stroller?

Yes, Riley, but don’t run—

I should have noticed
how excited he was,
how his pace quickened
as he pushed the stroller
towards the street,
but I was thinking of
the time he fell
on his two front teeth.

When he started to run,
I yelled for him to stop. 
He did, just before letting go.
The stroller sailed off the steep curb
into the street, and flipped over;
Desmond’s face crashed
and slid on the asphalt,
his front teeth piercing
his lower lip.

I still don’t know which was worse— 
Desmond’s tears, and the blood running
from his two front teeth,
or the look on Riley’s face.

Mommy, I didn’t mean it! he said.
But you did do it, I yelled.

I carried Desmond all the way home, 
the sun penetrating my scalp.

Now, four years later, 
I sit in front of my house. 
A little boy pushes a stroller.
His mother walks beside him.

Desmond is seven
and has forgotten the incident. 
Riley is dead, and I wish
this memory would die too.
But I still hear his voice,
Mommy, I didn’t mean to let go. 
 

Chanel Brenner is the author of Vanilla Milk: a memoir told in poems, (Silver Birch Press, 2014).  Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Rattle, Cultural Weekly, The Coachella Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, West Trestle Review, Muzzle Magazine, and others. Her poem, “What Would Wislawa Szymborska Do?” was displayed at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana; and her poem, “July 28th, 2012” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest, judged by Ellen Bass. In 2014, she was nominated for a Best of the Net award and a Pushcart Prize.