Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview
back L.S. MCKEE

Shark’s Tooth

He said to search for glintless blades, black specks buried to the gum line,
like this he said hunched over and extracting from the sand a tooth so tiny
I could have swallowed it, though the point was razor-sharp beneath
my finger and slim as a phlebotomist’s needle, and I knew to push any harder
would draw blood. He smiled. Half his face squinted shut against the sun.
I could have died, they say, meaning I could have followed anywhere
and did. For a mile. Hunched over and scouring. Make the eyes sharpen
at will I told myself. The water breathing. The sun lowering until I could hear it.
Light ringing in the eyes. He was far ahead. I was under the sun holding
my breath. Thousands of years old, he said doubling back with an outstretched
hand full of teeth. How handsome they looked in his palm. I smiled back,
half my face squinted shut against the sun. His skin suddenly the same color
of the sky as if he were disappearing. East, rivers troweled by fishing boats,
where the teeth that had drifted and settled for millennia were overturned.
Momentarily, they gather back into the mouth of the sea. And land here.
Everywhere in sight. Though I see none as he finds a twelfth. Long rubbed clear
of blood, they gleam like onyx, pupils widening in a room of dimming light.
I picture their former life, scraping flesh from bone, circling into the abyss
whose water would crush us if we tried to follow. And yet we follow. Like this.
Eyes open or closed. A teenage couple passed between us swinging the helmet
of a washed-up horseshoe crab. A mother chased her son to the just-too-deep
edge of water. Submerged to his diaper, he cried when she pulled him free.  end  

return to top