Overheard at a Bar Near My Home • Al Russell

"I lost fourteen teeth that day.
Not my teeth.
Other people's."

Notes of this man's voice
make me imagine the gnashers
he could have stolen
had he been better at craps,
musky yellow molars
mushy with bad-apple-brown spots,
incisors chipped down to
points finer than felt-tipped pens.
His opponent, original owner 
of the tokens, might could get a new set
with the money he saved
betting his teeth instead.

 "I want diamonds, Ben,
flatout diamonds!"

  . . . He'd say to the jeweler-dentist,
and happy Ben might saw
into a lump of rock and extract
canines shinier than God's teeth if he has them,
plugging the bloody sockets, dark garnets
dripping down and clotting gingival
around the new choppers.
And did our barroom narrator
get any souvenirs,
playing that poor sap
for his rotting bicuspids?

"He coulda lost the top row easy, 
but I just knocked him one good."

The storyteller spits a jagged sparkle
to the bottom of his glass.

-by Al Russell, from Children of the Anxious City