Jaw Tectonics

Complete with the cartoon
of a commode
with two turds floating in it
and a grinning grandma
sporting curlers in her hair,
my friend's not so subtle
birthday card to me reads
"Yippee! You Are 40!
Everything Goes To Shit From Here!"

my first instinct is to feel my jaw
for some sense of line and shape
for I read somewhere
that aging begins not so much
with wrinkling of skin
as with the migration of facial bones,
a lot like continental drift
just faster and more grotesque,
skin going into melt mode
as scaffolding beneath gives way.

I picture my mother as I saw her last—
her face distinctly boxy
and I think to myself
that I don't remember mother
being this cubist,
once she had a face perfectly oval
the contours of her chin
curving in a classic teardrop
every bit an Indian beauty
as she looks out of a photo
in early 1980.

I walk out of my bathroom,
curlers pinned atop my head
like the grandma near the commode
on my birthday card,
punching softly at my jaw
in a bid to make any deviant plates
align and sit ovoid again,
and spy my daughter at her desk
bent over her books
the morning sun dribbled in her hair
soft shadows framing
the youthful symmetry of her face,
wearing my mother's jaw
from her photo in 1980.

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