She smoked her teeth away
from the bubble, if you’re a country club member,
that’s what the lottery faithful
call a meth pipe.
She’s the attendant for the bakery at Walmart
and she’s from a place so secluded
the people there think going to Walmart
is a special occasion.
Sometimes she doesn’t bring her fake teeth to work
as if she wasn’t planning on smiling that day
but she always smiles
despite the memories she has
kept behind locked bathroom doors
and being fluent in garnished wages.
She’s looks elderly but she’s 54.
Retirement isn’t in her vocabulary,
benefits are getting to take some of the leftovers home.
She’s got medical bills that will walk her to the graveyard
because she wasn’t insured for what would break her
and some of her pre-existing conditions
go back generations,
she’ll have a mobile home longer than she’ll have a mobile phone
but she still smiles even when she can’t afford teeth.
She’ll tell people her teeth are missing
because she has a sweet tooth
which is true but not in a way they understand.
We all got a sweet tooth,
just some cause cavities that can’t be filled.
Somewhere in the holes inside her she found Jesus.
Good for her
because even though her life has been
one long Band-Aid rip
she’s the sweetest thing in the bakery.
Her name is Sheila and last month she became a great-grandma.
She’s not embarrassed of being that at her age,
she jokes and says that she’s always been a great grandma.
I’ll believe in miracles for her
and if she doesn’t get what she wants out of this life
I’ll believe in reincarnation for her.
I don’t believe in prayer
but I pray for Sheila
and her great grandbaby, too.
By David Icenogle
David Icenogle is a writer and mental health advocate who writes about his own experience with mental illness. He has publications with Asylum Magazine, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Passengers Journal, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and A Tether to this World.