Linda Dyer’s only poetry volume, Fictional Teeth, sorted out the world by pinpointing the unexpected connections that help it make sense, and turns the run-on tumbling syntax of an excited child into the medium for poems that first amuse, then haunt the reader. Venturing the territories of family and loss, persistence and hope, Dyer’s voice is wry and inventive in these poems, where a crayfish can be a child’s pet, a lover’s makeshift ashtray an erotic lure, office supplies a convenient resource for makeovers.
The full text of Linda Dyer’s Fictional Teeth is stored at Albertson Library at Boise State University, and can be downloaded here. You may also purchase a copy of the book.
My Mother Sends a Picture of Her New Teeth
They’re in her mouth.
Flashing into the camera,
they are so beautiful they make me cry.
Her face has been altered to accommodate the teeth.
She keeps her lips pulled down so we can’t tell
they’re dentures, but of course they’re so perfect
what else could they be—
no tobacco stains from the two packs a day,
straight and uniform as piano keys.
I try to look at her eyes or cheeks
but my vision is drawn to the teeth
like a drain everything rushes into.
She must be happy with her new look
smiling a way she rarely did
with a vacant mouth.
I remember how the last few hung on
like burned lace.
I want to call the dentist and say
put the spaces back
the one sharp canine a little lower than the rest.
No one should have teeth this fictional.
I mourn for the teeth my mother had 29 years ago
in the picture on my shelf,
she and my father at a school dance,
crinoline giving a curve to her hips,
her waist so small his big hands almost enclose it,
pincurls like a row of commas
across her forehead, and,
beautifully uneven, those identifying teeth.
The scars that divide her face,
gift of one husband out of work,
are not in the snapshot.
No sign of the booze,
the cigarette and couch,
everything lost in that fire,
the family history of letters,
some from me.
The face in the photo
is so like mine in the far mirror:
that woman, smiling,
full of teeth.
Copyright © 2001 by Linda Dyer
“Witty and tough, drawing on science and street argot, she at the same time has a feeling for the inner magic of the word, the quirky phrase, in the manner of Plath or Hopkins.” —Alan Williamson
“In Fictional Teeth, Linda Dyer weaves strands of loss into gorgeousness. She is a collagist, a quilt-maker, piecing what’s left (memory, humor, the one manicured hand) after the ravages of disease, fire, violence, and accidents. Her poetry is a naked poetry—haunting, seamless, and precise.” —Denise Duhamel
Linda Dyer received an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College, and was the recipient of fellowships from the Colorado Council on the Arts, the NeoData Endowment for the Humanities, and the Vermont Studio Center. She was a first place and second place winner in the 1995 San Francisco Bay Guardian Poetry Contest. She passed away in San Francisco, California, in July 2006.