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Born in San Francisco and raised in Vacaville, Michelle Brittan Rosado earned an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno, and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing & Literature at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Why Can’t It Be Tenderness, which won the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018). Her chapbook, Theory on Falling into a Reef, won the inaugural Rick Campbell Prize (Anhinga Press, 2016). Her poems have been published in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, Poet Lore, San Francisco Chronicle’s “State Lines” column, and The New Yorker, as well as several anthologies.


Love After Dentistry

by Michelle Brittan Rosado

With my mouth half-numb against yours,

the palm on my face might as well touch

anyone’s. I can’t feel your thumb pulling down

my bottom lip, index resting

under the chin, even though it’s a habit made familiar

to me now. I have to rely on sight

to know what you’re doing, your eyes closed

against the memory of another woman

for all I know. Beyond us and the wall

of the room, the grass stretches towards the end

of the yard. I could call up the fingers

of someone else; I’ve done it

before. It was a kind of test, the recollection

of the last man like a layer

over your movements so that, for a second,

the two of you blurred. And I would

do the work of finding you—the pressure

of your arm behind my back, your hip

on the inner side of my thigh—just to separate

your touch from his, and in this way

I could choose you over and over. Maybe

you’ve done the same, there may have been times

my body changed under your body, it’s possible

you did not know who I was until I returned

to you as myself, and whatever light

the day had left would uncover our faces

to each other. But this time I turn my head, run

my tongue over the raw surfaces of my mouth

for the first time, while the fence outside

the window arranges itself in parallel

lines. Here are new spaces, the hard

plaster sanded over, my own teeth.