My Dentist

My Dentist

Every trip of my tongue lit a flame in the fire
An incisor incisively teaching me agony

A graduate fellowship provides two types of wealth
Tuition and ratty health insurance
Taken by a dentist six blocks away

I sat in the waiting room and cursed
My father’s voice rising in my head
Think you’re cool? Just another fool
You went to Yale to
Study Michelangelo?
Will the Vatican pay your rent?

The inner surgery spotless as a museum
Even a Warhol poster of a lady imposter
A dressed up gentleman in dayglo green-blue
Then a real lady tapped on the door

Short, plump, bespectacled
Scanned the chart and shook her head
Said the cavity dived  deep
Probably need a root canal
Did she want me to still chance a filling?

My nod shot fire up my nose
I knew nothing of dentistry
Please do your damned best

Too kind to comment on past cavities
Pasta and sweets my love and destruction
But her low contralto contrived to tell
The story of human teeth

Able to resist thirty thousand pounds of force
Each tooth devised exquisite expertise
Slashing, dicing, gnashing, grinding
A public symphony of oral utility
Michelango saw the divine in the humble

She spun and cut with the lightest precision
Never had I felt less surgical pain
When it was over felt myself again

Her face not beautiful in that yellow ghoul’s light
Yet touched with the smile of a Pontormo angel
I felt the tug of invisible hands
Beckoning my tongue to speak
Timidly asked if it would break the law
If I asked her out

She gazed at me an extended while
Stone-faced till a pained smile
I’m divorced. My son is three.
Are you still interested?

Our marriage celebrated in a tiny tent
Atop a hill above New English smog
Her son’s now mine; he lives to draw
Toothy squirrels and cats
Says they’re good at catching ghost rats

The day my thesis defense achieved
Mailed my application for dental hygiene
I’m at her side and run the office
She’s happy in the quietest way

I’ll never write my seminal papers
Footnotes to more famous footnotes
Extolling the life of art’s greatest master
Copies of his drawings stud our walls

My slim “The Smile in History”
Might creep out in next year’s booklist
Art historians will snicker but
Dentists an underserved market

That Warhol poster now in our bedroom
Opposite the four poster’s headboard
Janie teaches uses of teeth and tongue
Well beyond my childish imaginings
In Michelangelo’s vision of God
Reproduction is the miracle of creation