by Matthew Koehler
Like many, I come late,
assured in my selfish assumption that
not being a real doctor
your office won’t be busy, and I
the only one with a schedule to keep.
Yet upon arrival, my assumptions are
I am the only one.
And leaving, I am still
the only one here.
I love that our small talk is small
and the same.
How old is your daughter now? Mine 4.
And your daughter, dentist friend?
Oh, you have a son.
you pick up and put down
your clinking tools. I guess
our idle chit chat is done.
“Whence thou last visited dear patient, didst thou haveth thy x-rays done?”
A spring visit, dear doctor, and one in autumn,
every year. Six long months
between. A pattern for six years straight.
X-rays in the spring…
It’s spring now, Doctor.
Time for a dose of radiation.
Oh! How I yearn for x-ray time!
Another short lull before the real pain begins.
A lull in which to discuss topics of import.
Dissected, chewed, ingested, and,
excusing the metaphor, so apropos,
brushed quickly with ADA approved abrasives.
Two minutes, no more
Often, your queries come with the positioning system
separating my upper and lower jaw.
Are they asked in jest?
Last time you pondered the long-term viability of the markets,
then cut me off
to slip between my teeth,
the RAPiD posterior bite block #2.
Pulling it out
before sticking the bite block
“Hold it just so,” you say.
“Don’t move,” you remind me.
“Perfect!” You praise me.
“Whoops! Don’t forget the lead apron!”
I’m a little kid again!
Gently floating backwards back
in your robo chair, I gaze up
to contemplate the plastic clouds above.
Their nature, so static
not HD, not alive, not a streaming collage,
or at least a screen saver! Just a simple
but utilitarian light diffuser.
Their effervescent puffy tranquility parts the veil of time
to my first time sitting here. I had
seven teeth holes to fill. A long morning of trials
for us both. I panicked. Trapped
in this chair, beneath
an unchanging dental office sky ceiling,
Phantom whines from a hot electric dental drill
fills my ear
and injects my amygdala with blind fear!
Seven damn holes under these fake plastic clouds!
Until your lilting voice stirs me:
“Ah, your teeth look great this time.”
Do I get a toy from the treasure chest?
A lollipop for exquisite oral hygiene?
Can I? Can I?
How envious eyes satiate themselves
upon your arrayed silvered tools:
a sickle probe. A scaler…
Even the saliva ejector,
relieving me of spit!
Tell me the intensity of your satisfaction
in possessing such instruments!
Does the same pleasure course through
your practiced fingers scratching,
yanking plaque and tartar from my off-white teeth,
that courses through mine?
Do chair-bound patient grimaces and grunts bring joy
as jaws and heads follow your emphatic tug?
Pushing one way,
then like a passive aggressive lover,
you slide the mirror in,
to pull cheeks back the other way.
Such a tease behind your protective face shield!
I wish I had one of those
to stop the drops of saliva
flying from my mouth
to land in my eyes. Look there!
Some of me has landed upon your shield.
A piece of me, for you. A gift!
Does my breath smell as pungent to you as yours to me?
I brushed my teeth for you.
It’s true. To clean the coffee and cigarette stains
that one thorough brushing could never scour away.
I do it anyway.
I lied, it was a joint.
Fare thee well, O doctor of the pearly whites!
Fare thee well! When six months hence
we shall again discuss the ages of our daughters!
And ask again whether or not
school suits them just fine.
Fare thee well, my dentist!