In the beginning, I strolled for an hour or two,
picking up pieces that flickered black, learning
to ignore the tricky chips of mussel shell
that most mistake for teeth. My pockets held
entire mouths, and soon I saw nothing
but their shimmer through the silt. Back home I sorted
great white, mako, tiger, snaggletooth: stacks
of trays filled with teeth, disembodied, mismatched,
shiny black and blue. I thumbed serrated edges,
stroked the squared-off roots, counted what was missing.
I bought hip waders and braved high tide, filling
my pack with shark teeth, skate teeth, hunks of whale bone.
Soon I disappeared for days, returning soaked
and weighted down. There is no end to this searching:
a single shark can shed ten thousand teeth
or more; its grace is regeneration: new teeth
fill in the gaps; the lost ones fall to the sea floor,
fossilize, emerge again with the turning
of tide: rogue pieces of an absent whole,
sharp echoes of a story I once knew
Elizabeth Hazen is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2013, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. She teaches English at Calvert School in Baltimore, Marylan.