As I was eating breakfast, the dentist’s office called to tell me I was supposed to get my teeth cleaned in March and missed my appointment. There are probably a couple of therapy sessions full of reasons why I didn’t go in March. Tonight, I’m choosing to deal with them in poetry.
Once More, with Filling
I’m not sure why I feel the
need to say anything at
all except your fear is worse
than mine. You have to
have a filling replaced. You,
who treasures her teeth, who is
so faithful to brush and floss.
My mouth has more drilling sites
than a Saudi oil field. This is new
to you, not me. “It’s not so bad,”
I say because I am not the one
subject to the white-knuckled,
chair-gripping, teeth-clenching truth
that you’re never numb enough.
I sit down in the waiting
room and open my novel;
behind the closed door they hook
up the suction on your lip.
The dentist brandishes a loaded
syringe, aiming – she says — to kill
the pain. As the novacaine kicks
in, she dons a mask and blocks the light
with her face, and closing on your
biscuspids, her drill droning, she hides
her glee behind the paper stretched
across her smile. You scream, but I don’t
hear. I finish one chapter and start
another; she continues her attack.
We trust the torturer since we can’t
see inside our own mouths. She talks
about decay and plaque, tells us
our gums are receding, as she pokes
and scrapes and commands us to spit.
We can only lie there slack-jawed,
imagining what life would be
if we didn’t believe this gum-gasher,
this dealer of dread, this sadistic
seer and sayer of all things teeth.
We are falling prey to a diabolical
plot to control us with spikes
and mirrors and laughing gas.
I drive you home, wondering
why we don’t trust our tiny
tusks to Crest and Scope, brushing
and flossing, saving ourselves
the terror and torment of
these trips, skipping these bouts of
anxiety. Would we find we don’t
need the pain she offers, or would
we count the years by the teeth
that dropped from our heads,
even as we saved them in a shallow
bowl, until there was no recourse
but to slink into her lair and gum
the words, “Pwease hewp me.”