The ache in my tooth is a dull reminder
of how long it’s been since I’ve seen a dentist –
and how much longer than that it’s been
since you have. They don’t tell you this part
in the movies – how real love is worrying
about each other’s oral health.
I read in a headline on Facebook about how death
sneaks in through the gums and now every time
you yawn, I examine your exposed molars.
As if I, an amateur, would recognize decay
by a glance. I feel time passing us by – the wrinkles
in mine and your face deepening. I take my car
in for an oil change and the mechanic
comes back with 450 dollars worth of atrophy
happening silently beneath the hood.
And I wonder about mine and your bodies –
which parts might be misfiring
without a single outward sign.
I am terrified to grow old.
And at the same time desperate to live
for as long as possible alongside you.
I press my ear to your chest and want to be comforted
by your revving RPM heartbeat and not fixate
on how delicate and intricate the dance of cells –
one misstep from cancerous destiny.
I don’t know anymore if I’d rather just not wake up
from a surgery one day or have my heart stop beating
in the middle of the kitchen. If it’s mercy
to be taken out early in a fiery crash or freak
backcountry skiing accident than to be alive
as your organic machinery breaks down. Slowly.
First a few loose screws before total organ failure.
The movies didn’t prepare me for this part –
how love would shatter the shield between me and mortality.
How much more mileage the actual heart can take than the physical.
How often I wonder which one of us will die
first. And hoping, pleading, praying it’s me.
Madison Gill (she/her) is a poet from western Colorado. An alumni of Colorado State University-Pueblo, her work has appeared previously in various print and online publications. She has also performed and placed in literary conferences at local universities. She is currently building a tiny house in the mountains.