The nurse in green hands me a syringe.
It’s in one of those small plastic bags, you know the ones. They held goldfish crackers when
you were eight years old.
She hands me this syringe and says to rinse after eating
that then I should be good and food won’t get lodged in my holes and I won’t get infections or dry socket.
Watch out with certain foods, she says,
you know, things like popcorn and fruit seeds and chewed up goldfish crackers
Can get stuck in your mouth holes and then the skin grows back over them and foreign bodies under your gums typically don’t bode well for your overall dental health. Or something like that.
Essentially, wisdom tooth socket infections are a painful reminder of the things you love.
So I say yes, ok, I will rinse after eating. I’ll be good.
I remember it was approaching summer, it was early on,
And I didn’t know much of you yet.
I remember you told me about the raspberry bushes at your house before I was there for the first time.
You got excited, and proud, I could tell
When you explained how your family grows them every year.
Your father tends them often, nurturing the pale morsels, urging them to become bleeding red
Eventually they will be ripe for the picking, each taste a reminder of the labor of love that fed them before they fed you.
I’m beginning to think that loving something on purpose,
Loving and nurturing and tending until deep red bulbs sprout from amidst the green,
Is the right way to love. It is your way and it is sacred.
I remember I told you about the wild raspberry bushes growing at my grandma’s house.
They weren’t there on purpose, but in my family, we take good things where we find them.
My mom always says she has the opposite of a green thumb,
And I think this runs in the family.
Either way, it was a blessing to get the raspberries before the birds did–
One taste and you’d understand why they went so fast.
They’re like the raspberries that we stuck on our fingers that one time
I can still see the deep red juice on my fingers
And that’s how I know: no berry-hued polish will ever give me as good a manicure.
To this day I can blow through a carton of raspberries,
Probably faster than those birds in the bushes.
The man down the road from my house grows rows and rows of raspberries each summer.
He’s stingy – you’d better not dare pop one in your mouth before you pay.
But when I look from the tops of my shoes to the horizon all I see are raspberries
Red with love, sweet with care.
Sometimes I feel similarly stingy, but with nothing to give in the end.
But then you make me laugh:
Imagine a syringe filled with a sweet summer jelly, its fruity aroma leaching out around us
Like our own personal atmosphere.
That is how it feels to laugh with you,
To talk with you,
Like sharing a grape, or a cherry, or even a rare raspberry in the cooler in the back at work.
You manage to stick your syringe right into the cavern of my chest,
Aiming meticulously at the folds of my soul.
Your two hands pulling back my blood red innards for the two of us to enjoy
Every time we laugh.
I’m inexperienced when it comes to loving on purpose.
Gardening and nurturing do not come easily to me
While you seem to be a natural with a syringe, knowing exactly where to poke to extract the richest liquid possible.
This makes sense, I think,
Because you did get your wisdom teeth out first, after all.
I remember you were worried about getting every molecule of debris out of your sockets but I wasn’t worried for you for one second. I know how you love.
So what can I say?
You showed me the ropes.
After my wisdom teeth were taken out, I learned how to love my gums on purpose.
I strive to do the same with you.
If only I had a 1,723 mile long syringe.
I think you were always better at loving me on purpose. Maybe your garden gave you practice.
You showed me that purpose wasn’t something you assigned to a task,
A reminder of a chore,
But rather it’s the willful effort of filling up a syringe
Sucking the love straight from my heart, the crimson juice,
And saying ready, aim, fire.
Point and shoot.
I did well with my sockets, but not perfectly
Because sometimes when I’m strolling through the produce section of a grocery store
I remember the raspberry seed I left in one of my mouth holes