Sean McGowen


The summer he earned his dentist's license,
the man became Rembrandt mouthwash.
He tried to tip over into the sink,
but he wasn't top heavy.
The nurse stowed him in a cabinet,
leaving him
next to a tube of Colgate toothpaste.


The summer a little girl got braces,
the nurse took the mouthwash from the cabinet
and handed him to the girl.
She needed straighter teeth, she needed cleaner
teeth like white piano keys resting on a keyboard.
Things get caught in braces; watermelon seeds,
popcorn kernels, apple chunks, lettuce and
caramel, always caramel.


The summer the girl used the mouthwash,
he grew old and bubbly,
filling the air with a musty stench.
She gulped down the clear mint liquid,
her fist engulfing the bottle.
She waited for him to reach her stomach.
She gasped for water.
Numbness consumed her tongue.
She was a kind of desert cactus,
sucking up the dry air.


And her eyes bulged.
And she set down the empty bottle. THWACK!
And she grabbed for something sturdy.
And she cried for help.
And she stumbled back, away from the sink.
And she collapsed, grabbing at the surrounding air.
She never felt her teeth get cleaner, or straighter, either.

Euphemism Campus Box 4240 Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240