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Watching the Live Fort Hood Memorial at Aspen Dental

Among the poorly hung TV, the drab pastels and wrapped gauze
            inside our mouths, all of us watch: boots strung together
on each pedestal, horns playing as Taps disintegrates into memory,
            while backgrounds and collective thoughts dissipate like hums
of drills and machines, finally clicking off down the halls. I have never
            fired a real gun, but plugged seven white rabbits with pellets
and blew heads off robins near the birdfeeder years ago, tied legs
            and flung each mass into woods behind the birch trees.
I’ve been here an hour already. The waiting room reeks of unwashed hair
            and unbathed children, while the cold, unrelenting, attacks skin,
the spreading, splotched red on my face. I know when it gets worse
            they’ll stare even more, wide-eyed kids sucking crayons
and fingers, unblinking. But I had fluoride when I was young, a mother
            who chose sugarless gum, and still can picture Wade Whitehouse
in Affliction, finally wrenching his tooth out with pliers. All of us
            surrounded by teeth, X-rays of cavities and inflamed gums,
of gleaming white. There’s beauty in the commercial of a bullet
            entering a glass bottle’s lip before it shatters the bottom
like a thousand stars, unlike the round through our teeth—fragments
            we hope identify us someday—undaunted by the care we took.


Dear Sickness

            Thomas Mortimer IV Left Note at Crime Scene . . .

Before Thomas Mortimer stabs and bludgeons
            his family, we watch Saw, Irreversible, Traces of Death
                        a concocted horror trilogy back-to-back—

effects magic and makeup, poorly lit scenes,
            delayed head-splits and body-sized, gunshot gashes,
                        and we stare, rewind, stuff popcorn

into our mouths before cautiously nearing the end
            of the bag, knowing our enamel gets weaker every day,
                        that one thick kernel can split a molar, strike its nerve.

My nightmare lately has been of myself as a boy
            in my father’s car, stopped to help Mortimer’s
                        white jeep, staring at the jack inching up the frame,

my father twisting the lug wrench, fingers tapping
            as Mortimer watches, wonders if my father recognizes
                        his face, the license plate. I am looking—face pressed

against back-seat glass, breath fogging—wiping away
            to see him tighten the last. It ends with images of you,
                        his daughter—as he covers her eyes before the slice

with a kitchen knife—and luckily those, your eyes,
            are masked while you sleep now, blurring into his daughter
                        by the end, with my eyes, a boy’s eyes, imagining

you already gone, the white jeep before we drive off,
            my father saying nothing, and right before I wake,
                        I pray for white light ahead not to burn us alive.


Come Home to Me

After the kiss on my cheek each morning,
            I haven’t told you I can’t fall asleep

when it’s over—always some problem
            with my imagination. Come home to me.

It could be the woman who has a stroke
            in the middle of her craniotomy,

her left hand shooting up to wrench
            your neck, your footing lost, back

of your head slammed against the cold floor.
            Come home to me. The construction constant

around our city: operator drunk, you singing
            God-awful music from a disc I burned you

earlier, excavator’s claw bound to smash
            the windshield, sweep across your body.

Too many movies, and more being made,
            of lost love, old men regretting their lives

of mistreatment and alcohol abuse. Always
            those components. Always an ending

with no redemption. Come home to me.
            And the scene in a liquor store: our fingers

tapping wine bottles before his ski mask
            and bat in hand. My nightmare in this world

is bound to happen. I rush him and scream
            for you to run. The last thing I see is the back

of your head, slow-motion curls bouncing
            for one utopian second—Come home to me

before the bat hits my skull, as I remember
            every detail, and never fall asleep again.  


Keith Montesano is the author of the poetry collection Ghost Lights (Dream Horse Press, 2010). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Literary Review, Third Coast, Blackbird, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. He currently lives with his wife in New York, where he is a PhD Candidate in English and Creative Writing at Binghamton University.