Yesterday I had to visit the dentist. While some of us may be lucky enough to escape much dental treatment, I'm afraid I belong to the category of people whose life history is intimately bound up with the history of their teeth. My previous National Health dentist, whom I saw regularly for nearly 20 years, died suddenly in bed one night at a relatively young age. Since then there's been a succession of replacements possessing wildly varying abilities and personalities. None have stayed with the dental practice for long. One of these took an initial brief tour inside my mouth and almost wept. After some minor treatment I left feeling quite depressed at his pessimistic gloom. The dentist I saw yesterday was a new young woman with exceptional practical and communicative skills. She's probably the best dentist I've ever had. This is a poem I've just written about the experience. I went in to have my crown fixed but left with a tooth extracted - as beneath the crown the tooth had become rotten and infected.
Disarming me with your casual style,
You welcome me into the room
Next to the room of the dentist who died.
At your request I take a seat,
Lie down, relax, let go,
Like a patient on an analyst's couch.
I am in your intimate hands.
The chair spins as you adjust
The feng shui in your chamber.
I hand you my broken crown.
You laugh rather derisively,
Needling me to go the whole way.
My head tilts up then down.
I submit with a sigh to your desires.
Beyond my field of vision
Lie all the sharp instruments
Of your calling. I gaze fixedly
At the child's mobile on the ceiling.
You probe my mouth:
A gentle but firmly precise
Oral speleology. The female skills
Of needlecraft and stumpwork come to mind.
Gone is the sour cigar or garlic breath
Of certain male practitioners,
Just a clean, fresh lack of odour.
I feel nothing now. The tooth is out,
You say in an insouciant tone.
Later I'll feel the pain of loss.
Oh, Mistress Novocaine,
Let me tell you my dreams:
The purple sage of Mexico,
The burning sarsaparilla,
Hot chilli peppers in the blistering sun.
Do you know there are cavities
In the heart as well as in the mouth?
But you high-five your acolyte,
And I'm already far beyond your interest
When you politely shepherd me away
And turn to greet the next initiate.