About My Teeth

i was born
with a lip incompetence,
meaning – at its
relaxed state – my mouth


rests slightly ajar,
my upper lip
raised above
my buck teeth


in the shape of
a triangle.
growing up,
the neighborhood kids


could not decide
between calling me
dorito
or squirrel.


when you have
body dysmorphic disorder,
you cope
with each trigger


through comedy –
like
when people ask
how it is


to have dysmorphia
i tell them
i quit my job at subway
because


i was irrationally angry
at the chip rack,
that when i say
i have nuts in my mouth


one cannot tell
if i am
giving a blowjob
or simply

saw my face
in a mirror.
between laughter,
i do not speak


of how my lips
unconsciously purse
when i open
my front camera.


how i bought
an N-95
three years
before the pandemic, or


how i moved to Boston
so i could justify
wearing a wind mask outdoors.
when my mom asks


why i joke
about my face
so much,
i want to say


dysmorphia
is a language
of non-verbal ignorance;
that since my teeth


do not fit
in my mouth,
my tongue
bends


each bone
to be beautiful,
that my jaw
is most pretty


in a punchline.
except
when i do speak,
all that comes out is

hey mom,
what do you call
an anorexic
with buck teeth?


a rake.


when she figures out
what the joke means,
i have already found
three excuses


to leave the conversation,
because it is easier
than explaining
why i don’t smile


in family photos,
or why i buy
so much mouthwash,
or why


i begged her
to get braces,
or why
i fucking hate


Alvin and the
Stupid Fucking Chipmunks.


i am so good
at biting my tongue
but so bad
at keeping my lips shut.


i know i’m freaking out
over nothing –
but when i’m eating a cupcake
and see my teeth marks


in the frosting,
i choke
on my own disgust.
when i walk past a mirror,

i stop
and count each atom
between my lips
until i’ve swallowed


my whole throat
and pulled each tooth
like a pill.
when i say


i’m always
behind the camera,
i mean that
my mouth


is an ever-agape
aperture of flesh,
that my front teeth
are two flashbulbs


of buck-white enamel
i can’t turn off.
sometimes,
i leave the room to eat


so my friends
don’t see me
chewing.
how do i explain that


to my mom
and not sound insane?
how do i speak
when my tongue hides


from its own vocabulary?
i am always
three wisecracks away
from a panic attack.


still,
i know that i
am gorgeous.
when people ask

what’s wrong
with my teeth,
i tell them
my mouth hangs open


because my jaw
is so dropped
at its own beauty.
that i am constantly


gasping at my own
reflection. that my mouth
is a prophet
of mixed metaphor magic


that knows 1000 synonyms
for the word beautiful
and knows that it is
every one of them.


when they ask
what i mean
by beautiful,
i tell them


it is cheering
each time i see
sandy cheeks on tv,
her gummy grin and


endless fangs.
it is shamelessly
inhaling three bags
of doritos


because fuck you
they’re fucking delicious.

it is telling my mom
after years


of searching
for the right words.


that
is the most beautiful thing
i have done.

Ari Lohr is a wannabe-astronaut-turned-poet attending university in Boston, MA. A Brave New Voices semifinalist and Slamlandia finalist, his work appears in Kalopsia Lit, the Ice Lolly Review, Interstellar Lit, and more. He is also the managing editor for the Bitter Fruit Review and the editor-in-chief of the Jupiter Review. Ari can be found at arilohr.com or @i.o.jupiter on instagram