portion of the artwork for Matt Morris's poetry

Every Time You Lose
Matt Morris

a tooth, according
to my book of dreams,
you lose a friend. To
death in some cases,
betrayal in others.
Or maybe they just
move on, up, & out
of your life. Who knows?
I don’t usually
attach much meaning
to such hokum, but
many years ago,
I dreamt the molar
I called my sweet tooth
dissolved like a mint,
bitter to my tongue.
“Weird,” I told Zoe,
pouring milk over
my bowl of frosted
flakes in the morning.
She didn’t comment
but sat silent, carved
in stone that I took
for granite, suitcase
sitting at her feet
unexplained. There was
no need to explain.
She called me later
though, called me a lot
of things—unemployed
was the one that stuck—
& said she wasn’t
coming back, adding
how, in great detail,
she’d blown a sad air
force cadet sharing
her seat on the bus,
“thanks for your service.”
Well, it wasn’t much
of a marriage, poor
as we were. Now fast
forward to last night
when I found myself
racing around curves
down a mountain road
on my bike, the one
with blue banana
seat & wheelie bar
I loved as a kid.
Stan, squat, wan, pop can
in hand, is riding
on the handlebars—
big ape hangers—half
laughing, half screaming
that I would kill us
both if I didn’t
slow down. Whatever
happened to him? God,
I haven’t seen him
since I went away
to college. How long
ago was that? Didn’t
somebody tell me
a tree fell on him?
Then I remember
that he’s dead & it
occurs to me too
that I’m not a kid
anymore either.
I’m 50 years old,
& picking up speed,
the handlebars as
wobbly as my teeth,
I can’t control where
I’m going, steering
out of a truck’s path
at the last moment,
dirty, bug-stained grill
still grinning at me
after I wake up.
I didn’t need to look
it up in my book
to know the meaning
of this dream was don’t
neglect your friends, who,
like your teeth, require
attention, such as
brushing & flossing—
your teeth, not your friends.


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 54 | Fall/Winter 2019