Root Canal

I.

the overhead light is a python shining into my eyes
this office is hissing: drills, rotors, a hanging
S at the end of a passing sentence.
they have taken so many x-rays
of my mouth these past few weeks

there the infected tooth stares back
in its gray and black graveyard,
deep in its flaw

II.

the doctor numbs me with needle
puts a cloth in my mouth, a cape
to make my face a superhero.
it’s an uncomfortable placebo
makes me think of super-strength
defense as she scythes the pulp out of me

III.

the doctor says god,
this is a pulp boulder

I have been looking toward heaven
digging and scraping many silent minutes

IV.

a drill

bats squeal and fly from the cave of my tooth

V.

the assistant tag-team switches for
a different assistant

the doctor says we’re finally getting somewhere

on the radio:
like a virgin. touched for the very first time

VI.

the scent of bone

or blood

or gum

or healing

VII.

the assistant says she visited the chickens last week
cute as dickens

I learn chickens have no bladders
and no bone marrow

and here I hold my urine

VIII.

the doctor tells me open wide
shoving cotton in my mouth

shout, shout, let it all out

IX.

they’re trying to figure out the actress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
the doctor holds a scalpel over my mouth
the name at the tip of her tongue

After an eternity I offer
Hahdrey Hehurn

I did my part

they’re proud
and there are no complications

 

(originally published in Off the Coast, Fall 2017)

Your Teeth, My Teeth

clatter. chew
through apples (nothing).

half a meal, half a pine,
half of what we hoped for,
if.

the way a core reveals itself inedible,
though we knew.

from day one, bites
and bites.

sometimes the juice sweetness
overpowers slow rot.

it was early on, and worms
had yet to emerge from their holes
in the ground to greet us.

all we had to do
was wait for rain.

 

(originally published in First Literary Review – East, Winter 2018)

Brushing

As I run hot faucet water
over the head of my electric toothbrush,
Jennifer asks isn’t it better
when we brush our teeth together?

This, of course, is redundant.

I have cleaned the spit
and foam from my brush alone
through the years,
watched clean water slowly spiral
down a clog.

I have taken better care
of myself.

Flossed the plaque
between memories,
tartar of bad habits,
freshened breath
in and out of you.

These I can withstand.

Thus I answer at all.

Tiger Balm

Nice to pretend
there’s a thing all-healing.
It’s early spring and we both
ache– my mouth, your stomach.
Searching for remedy we lay
leglocked in bed to distract
ourselves with affection
but smell of Tiger Balm.
You like its touch, I like
the texture– the initial
dipping into hope that
maybe we’ll find relief
in the burn it leaves
in the air, or in my hand
on your stomach,
then in your hand.

 

(Originally published in Poetry Super Highway, Summer 2017)