Root Canal

You've never seen such a captivating
anglepoise lamp.  Desperate to dwell
on anything but the slender steel barbs
the dentist has so thoughtfully laid out
at mouth level, you stare into the grille
that guards the filament's miniature sun.

The grille's stained pink. A Hokusai sea?
You imagine a famous print, lend it titles:
Tide off Edo at Dawn?  You focus on the O
of Belmont, the brand name embossed on
a dark ellipse at the centre.  Number two file,
he says, reaching a hairy tanned arm over.

Six rapid clicks.  A gas hob igniting?
The nurse points a long kinked tube
and blows chilled minty gas right into
the rift he's opened under your molar.
He digs into you, twirling a shiny spike
in his fingers as if fixing spaghetti on a fork. 

Christ.  The nurse has lit a flame on a stalk.
He bathes a sharp black stick in the fire,
an armourer hardening a spear.  A stink
of burning resin rises from your jaw.
Your sister's doll, melting in the bonfire.
No food for two hours.  The backrest rises.

You mumble Ank Ou and stumble downstairs
into Reception, where they'll drill fifty quid
from your balance.  The novocaine's numbed
an inch of gum to clay.  Hardly high tragedy.
So crawl back to your box.  Relax.  Treat this
as practice.  An ounce of you dead for an hour. 

William Stephenson

If you have any comments on this poem, William Stephenson would be pleased to hear from you.