The Tooth Fairy

by Dorianne Laux

They brushed a quarter with glue
and glitter, slipped in on bare
feet, and without waking me
painted rows of delicate gold
footprints on my sheets with a love
so quiet, I still can't hear it.

My mother must have been
a beauty then, sitting
at the kitchen table with him,
a warm breeze lifting her
embroidered curtains, waiting
for me to fall asleep.

It's harder to believe
the years that followed, the palms
curled into fists, a floor
of broken dishes, her chainsmoking
through long silences, him
punching holes in his walls.

I can still remember her print
dresses, his checkered Taxi, the day
I found her in the closet
with a paring knife, the night
he kicked my sister in the ribs.

He lives alone in Oregon now, dying
of a rare bone disease.
His face stippled gray, his ankles
clotted beneath wool socks.

She's a nurse on the graveyard shift,
Comes home mornings and calls me,
Drinks her dark beer and goes to bed.

And I still wonder how they did it, slipped
that quarter under my pillow, made those
perfect footprints...

Whenever I visit her, I ask again.
"I don't know," she says, rocking, closing
her eyes. "We were as surprised as you."


  1. Very poignant poem. From the sweetness of youth, to the ugliness of violence, to the exhaustion of a tough life. So well done. Thanks for sharing!

  2. wow...what a powerful and achingly beautiful poem. thank you for the introduction to dorianne laux.

    great wedding pic - anyone in particular?

    I was away on a wander and just caught up on all the postings I've missed. a few hugs....

    in response to an earlier post about a tragedy in your hometown, we also had a terrible tragedy involving guns and the deaths of several children...right after that the news was filled with other insane acts of men with guys....had me wondering about what strange cosmic misalignments must be happening....

  3. So love changes into something ugly...and didn't get fixed.

  4. There is always a moving moment to be experienced on your blog. The poems, the wonderful photos, and James Taylor too - singing one of my favorite songs. I took a moment to sit back and listen and I feel rejuvenated! Just a great place to visit. Oh - and the laughs!
    All the best,

  5. What a poem. It took me from bright joy to deep sadness. A surprise.

  6. Wonderful true...why is it that when we have somerhing special in our lives , we still do not realise its true worth ?
    Thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful poem with all of us.

  7. As Always--Thanks for the comments:>)
    Annie--I read this poem years ago and it has always stuck with me--somedays about the fact that love can change and head for the hills, but also the magic that it leaves behind. And the poet does this so quietly and using such ordinary events; I'm amazed by it.

    Mousie--the photo I discovered on a Google search. I mean no disrespect or jinxing to the couple and hope they still enjoy a happy marraige. I thought the idea of a bride and a groom being in their own fairy tale fit the feel of the poem.

    To Avijeet Das, Catherine of Clapping Hands,SamaraZone,&Shabby Girl--welcome and thank you:>)

  8. This is very powerful. I like how the speaker can hold the magic of that moment and know that the sadness that came after it was not the whole story of her parents' lives.

    It is hard to reconcile the complexities of life, to make peace with the parts that don't stand together, that shoot our theory. I think it's necessary, though, to hold them all and let them be what they are, even if they don't make sense.

  9. Distracted, you never fail to move me with the poetry you pass along here. This work is no exception.


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