My Dead Tooth
by G. Louis Heath

17 was a helluva a year, all sorts of
conflict and turbulence. I was trying
to figure out who I was, even though

I graduated among the top in my class.
Sports was the way to climb the status
pole at Oroville High in the foothills of

the Sierras where I grew up. I did not
like football but baseball a bit. So, I
combined brain and ball by managing

the varsity baseball team. Road trips
detracted from my studies. I mightily
regret that 55 years later. I could have

read some great books that only now
I am catching up on. I did one good
thing as manager, broke up a fight on

the team bus. The third baseman, as big
as me at 220, hit me flush in the mouth,
caused a front tooth to wiggle for the

longest time. The nerve was dead. I just
took the blow, like the Freedom Riders,
though I have thrown some vicious, angry,

imaginary counterpunches over the years.
My dead tooth, now the stained one, says
it all for my senior year at 17. I want to add

just one more thing: Just before graduating,
I cut my varsity manager letter into little felt
pieces, and I do mean very little felt pieces.

PHOTO: The author’s graduation photo, Oroville High School (Oroville, California, 1962).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: G. Louis Heath, Ph.D., Berkeley, 1969, is Emeritus Professor, Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa. He enjoys reading his poems at open mics. He often hikes along the Mississippi River, stopping to work on a poem he pulls from his back pocket, weather permitting. His books include Leaves Of Maple: An Illinois State University Professor’s Memoir of Seven Summers’ Teaching in Canadian Universities, 1972-1978, Long Dark River Casino, and Redbird Prof: Poems Of A Normal U, 1969-1981. He has published poems in a wide array of journals.