Rebecah Pulsifer


Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I had dipped it in the dish.’ –John 13:26

I never loved you more than when you gave—instead of a flower—
a battery-run toothbrush, wrapped in green paper: a perfect, mechanical,

and bright-white semaphore filled with the hope of becoming
more like select movie stars, a favorite hallway’s favorite fluorescent light.

We brushed our teeth together while exchanging through the mirror
the angled look of rams before the fight—but gentler. We remembered

a white lather was involved, showing off strings of pale bubbles where none
had been before. Also, the flecks from each of us that would afterwards

appear in the sink—their Rorschach shape—and the sink itself,
a hollow cocoon held together with spit and our own pleasing odors:

that of the curry enjoyed, the rice not, the consequent peppermint—.
Upon flossing, I pretended that instead of porcelain, the mouth instead prefers

the feel of wood, or lace, or dust, and was amazed to see how at times a feeling
presents itself so that it is irrefutable, even to the quavering mind. This fact

is not like a kiss—even our initial blank ones—when the other mouth
is always more moist than expected, more full of crevices and lines, more full

of the idea that the other has a mouth, and other shapes, some to touch and some
to only imagine, like the controversial appendix, placed like an afterthought

but never felt or seen in ordinary life. And then the rinsing, how it burns at first,
and the monkish pleasure at the discomfort, how I feel more deserving

to clean myself than others must, others who don’t try as hard as I—

and then the mouth’s sudden emptiness, how I become again aware of the teeth,
their slipperiness, the tender moss of silk they wear, the reflected

image of it that burns into the eye, that is encrypting a memory even now, even
this second—of something not quite pure, but in various stages

of growing: the hollow stage, the stage of possibility, the stage of the empty skull,
of waiting to be filled, to be filled by tongues, by lead, by bread and wine.