Phillis Wheatley’s Teeth by Chantel Lavoie

Poem title: Phillis Wheatley’s Teeth  Poet Name: Chantel Lavoie Poem begins: (Wheatley was taken as a slave from Africa in 1761, and was purchased  by Susannah Wheatley of Boston.  At age twenty she published  Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, for which she acquired the sobriquet the “Sable Muse”)  1.  She was seven, or so  her master believed since two front teeth were lost on the journey or shortly before, or at landing.  2.  Surviving the ship and the sea was uncommon for one this young. She travelled light, shedding teeth and memory language and family. Freed of her names, she was informed of salvation in a safe harbour.  “Twas mercy brought me  from my pagan land.”  The mistress was kind taught her English and made  American, proper tea. The poet appeared between  the spray and the steam.  Gaps  were filled with American teeth.  3.  They were small bones left behind, above ground perhaps one in Africa one aboard ship.  In any case lost of necessity, uprooted to make room for something perfectly new. End of Poem. Credits: Copyright © Chantel Lavoie Previously published in Where the Terror Lies (Quattro Books, 2012). Chantel Lavoie lives in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches in the Department of English, Culture, and Communication at the Royal Military College of Canada.  She has published two books of poetry: Where the Terror Lies (Quattro 2012) and This Is About Angels, Women, and Men (Mansfield 2021).