Appointment with Dentistry


My dentist talks too much.

He gestures me, stroking the air,
to the susurration of his chaise longue,
waving the noise of nerves away,
brushing the air with whispers.

He lets me luxuriate, allows
that sinking feeling to arrest
my powers of persuasion. All this
is accomplished; he's a sweet tooth.
His assistant officiates as he doffs
formality, swoops me off my balance.

My head lolls backwards, upwards.

And now he pounces, chocking my
toppling mouth with props, wedges, tiny
buttresses. Jamming a firm finger
in the wet crook of my cheek,
he's off on a five-mile jabber.

Questions, he asks questions - not,
you understand, about my dental ethics,
my deplorable orals, or slum gums.
Instead he showers me with palaver,
offering a pink rinse of chatter,
searching my cavities with a fine
forensic line of enquiry. Have I
seen my mother lately? Is the hot
potato a current fashion in my field?
Who is the father of invention,
mating necessity behind net curtains?

My answers are gambles, tongue
dicing with his silver toothpicks,
risking the whistle of his drills.

I gargle at him, essaying the
ventriloquism of amateur afternoons,
curdling the words. A waste pipe
sucks the bubbles of spare saliva,
freezing me into complete silence.

He looks like Laurence Olivier.
Is it safe? he tests me, rattling
his gabble off the tip of his tongue.
I am Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman,
I wait for the oil of cloves.

He describes each child, who kicked
the penalties last Saturday.
Polishing his anecdotes, he traces
root canals to their lost source,
extracting gasps of my interest.

He bows and scrapes. He seeks
an approbation I would parcel for him.
To cap his performance, he describes
a convention of dentists attended.
They pass around palates and X-rays:
there was a fake practitioner
who fixed false teeth with panel pins,
and here my dentist mimes
the knocking of a criminal hammer.

The ordeal is over, and he wrenches
his patter out of my mouth.
My cheek is an anaesthetic bump;
my ears are burning and howling.

Shushing me upwards, he ushers
the tonic of sol-fa forward.
My teeth are on edge; he invites me
in barely audible undertone
to pamper my cuspids with paste.

Wordlessly, he wafts me to his door.
He is a good dentist, my dentist.
He has the professional measure
of my mouth; his charm's smarmless.
He may be reading this poem.

From Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday