The day I split my tooth you crossed an acre of red concrete cupping a tomato plant in your palm. It was the week before thrushes and after robins, when the rain is suddenly warm. We planted it in the gutter beneath our kitchen window and it grew embarrassingly full on our neglect, a few eroded leaves and runoff. By August we fed daily, each one indigo with yellow cracks, the skins thick and musical. At first the symptoms were playful: you dreamt of shipwrecks and your acupuncturist gave you wet herbs in a glass. One night I woke up playing L’isle joyeuse on the out of tune piano. In the night shade we visited each other’s dreams and read letters by the light of our skin. When your results come back with elevated lead we buy a kit and test everything: the knobs and faucets, the chipping paint on the mirror, the griffin’s toes of the clawfoot tub. Then a strip lands on the cutting board and purples: positive. That night I opened a tomato and felt a tooth. We pulled it up by the roots and buried it in a field beneath the beams of our headlights. For weeks afterwards we swallowed gigantic pills and drank lemon water. Then one morning I woke and you were nowhere. I searched all day but couldn’t find you, though you were reading on the couch, though you were brushing your teeth over the sink. We asked: which of us is the ghost? You left and went to live on a friend’s farm in Maine. I stayed. In spring I look out the kitchen window and see the new crop seeded in the clogged gutter, the blameless white florets I can’t bring myself to cut.
Brian Sneeden is a poet, literary translator, and editor. His collection of poems, Last City, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2018. His poetry has received the Iowa Review Award in Poetry, the Indiana Review 1/2K Prize, and has appeared in Harvard Review Online, Poetry Daily, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications. His translations have received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship, the World Literature Today Translation Award for Poetry, the Constantinides Memorial Translation Prize, a PEN/Heim Translation Grant, and other recognitions. His translation of Phoebe Giannisi’s Homerica (2017) was selected by Anne Carson as a favorite book of 2017, and his translation of Giannisi’s collection Cicada was published by New Directions in 2022. He is a lecturer in creative writing and publishing at Manchester Metropolitan University.