©2020 by Canvas Literary Journal

Published by Cosmographia Books

Background art “Submerged” by Amelia Ao

Canvas logo by Ali Wrona

Broken Teeth Make Broken Boys Make

Broken Men Make Broken Women

Chloe Frampton

Winter 2020

early rise of the dawn stains my lips like clouds of gold dipped and

hardened in honey

i wake up (relish in a few seconds of life erased) and feel four of my

teeth chipped and

breaking                    inside my              mouth

i spit their remains into a bowl next to my bed that’s always there for

these kinds of mornings (at night, the moon drools all over its metallic

glimmer and i stare at my fingers in its edges—they always look blue 

in the dark)

mother asks me what i’d like for breakfast (something i’ve never tasted,

men’s tears splattered on a plate)

i say i’m not hungry and she gasps before i can finish

she swallows air as one tastes void and asks

they’re still breaking? so i nod and squirm beneath the

                                              gaze she gives my closed lips

i go to the mirror and smile

i go to the mirror and snap boy (i’ve never heard my voice like this:


but this is not anger this is fear: father

always says anger is for men and mother once told me that women are on

the receiving end

of men’s suppression (born fury) and i don’t want to be a man if it is an

inability of expression)

in the dusty glass i see blurry versions of myself (glimpses of my shoulder

my lips but never my own eyes)

what remains of my teeth


                                                      by a few

                                                               threads of 

                                                                             swollen bleeding gums

when mother comes to stand behind me (still as sound after prayer) i

close my mouth immediately and whisper hideous (she nods in agreement

but changes the subject and speaks of the news: girl commits suicide 

after years of husband’s abuse)

i decide to stay awake forever

to keep my teeth safe

for three nights i stay up fighting sleep

just like mother fights the dentist who says he can’t cure my case

and when we leave the clinic i lick light from the sky and swirl some

around my tongue (what would my friends think if my words were made

of sun not dirt and tire tracks?)

father continues to check my room every night but quickly realizes


i’m awake every time

so he leaves (and doesn’t say goodnight like he usually does when i turn

off the light)

on the fourth day

i am weak as liquid hope

i’ve started dreaming during the day

of swans dipped in wine beneath autumn thunder

my words slur into incomprehensible clusters

and i fall asleep in class so often i have come to prefer the desk to my own


and yet my teeth are unchanged (not breaking but still broken)

this is what i realize: i must accept

                                                               broken   teeth

just like i accept the wind mangled around my throat

that night i put on my pajamas and tell mother i have given up (she says i

will get used to feeling powerless)

trees whisper between the ripples of my curtains things i can not discern

so i turn my lamp off and lay silent and unmoving

waiting for sleep to wash over me as spring rain does to fields (except i

don’t bloom when i wake)

this is it: the feeling i’ve dreaded for days (i know this pit well for he lies

somewhere near my stomach

raw as earth’s first week)

father walks in to say goodnight like he always does

like his father and his father’s father did before him

he sounds relieved that things are back to normal

his footsteps soft as murmured lullabies 

this is what happens:

a whispered good brought with hands beating the skin beneath my shirt

a final night with nails digging into blue bloody skin

(in the dark mother can’t watch and father in his discipline

always tells me men must never make a girl cry

even though i have seen mother’s tears)

i pretend to sleep

i think of my friend who pretends to sleep in his car

except his father always carries him back in

i lie there and clench my jaw so tight 

it hurts

he leaves (i do not miss him but in the light he looks

like a man with a smile as fractured as mine)

alone once again

i feel another tooth chip 



Chloe Frampton is a seventeen-year-old high schooler in Geneva, Switzerland who was born in Washington, D.C. When she isn’t spending all her time reading or writing, she loves anything to do with music, art, and laughing too hard with friends. Her biggest wish is to travel around the world before spending the rest of her days living in a bookshop.