teeth and consequences

by Mary Turck Issue: Spring/Summer 2019


My tongue is tired of pushing that loose tooth back and forth, feeling my soft gum wiggle with it. Daddy could tie a string to a door handle and then around the tooth and then slam the door. Or I could just wait, moving the tooth back and forth until it comes out. My choice.

I wash my tooth, dry it shiny clean and put it under my smooth white pillow.  The tooth fairy takes a tooth and leaves a dime. Sometimes she forgets to take the tooth.

The tooth is real. The dime is real. The tooth fairy is not real. But she is not exactly a lie either.



Hamid helped his father and brother distribute vaccines in Afghanistan. His father and brother were killed. Hamid fled after he got the letter saying they were coming for him.

Hamid said he was 17 years old and afraid to go back to Afghanistan. Immigration officials put him in a juvenile center and x-rayed his teeth.



A Texas dentist, looking at mug shots and dental x-rays, said the “range of possible ages for such a male is 16.56 to 23.18 years.” The dentist put the “empirical statistical probability” of Hamid’s being 18 or over at 79.52%.

Hamid is real. His fear is real. The empirical statistical probability is not exactly a lie. But it is not real either.



Hamid sits in an adult prison. No one there speaks Pashto. He is afraid.

What is the empirical statistical probability that Hamid will be killed if he is deported back to Afghanistan?

What is the range of possible outcomes for a fatherless, brotherless deportee who is 16.56 years old? What is different if he is 23.18 years old?

Mary Turck

Mary Turck lives and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has published extensively as a journalist, after working in a variety of jobs ranging from gym teacher to attorney. Her poetry has been published in Poets Reading the News and a chapbook, Forest City Poems. Her literary and journalistic blogs can be found at http://maryturck.com