by Masha Lisak
Research suggests a link between teeth and memory.
Cases of amnesia have been documented after a tooth is pulled.
Yiddish, its roots in German, is a map to conditional acceptance.
Hopelessness, on the other hand, offers a place. My foremothers knew both tongues.
The supporting tissues suffer damage when a tooth is knocked out.
Desire and unease are my inheritance. As are bad teeth.
Russian and Yiddish alphabets have one letter - ש (sh) - in common.
The letter does not exist in English. It aches in my name.
First language shows itself in the position of the tongue against the teeth.
My name is diminutive for Bitter.
Miriam – the Bitter one – wandered in the wilderness.
Some say she carried a well. When she died, the well went dry.
English fills my mouth like stones, a dry well.
I file my teeth on it.
My parents and I are separated by the distance of a culture.
There are many ways to diminish a name.
Hope pulls me apart like an unripe peach:
Someone, take the juice of me into your mouth.
Masha Lisak is a poet and leadership coach living in Oakland on unceded Chochenyo-Ohlone land. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sycamore Review, pacificREVIEW, Written Here, Anklebiters and elsewhere. She was the 2018 Editor-in-Chief of the journal of the Community of Writers and a 2019 Napa Valley Writers’ Conference fellow. Her dogs’ names are Mazal Tov and Poppyseed.