IN THE DENTIST CHAIR

Matt Siegel

Nancy asks me if I've been stressed as she digs a hook between my teeth.
With her hands in my mouth I gurgle and grunt as she says
You've been grinding. She scrapes a tooth and my eyes liquefy.

She asks if I've been flossing in that way that lets me know
she knows I haven't. The blood I spit into the little plastic sink
proves it. I tell her I flossed before I came, she replies Not good enough

and slaps a lead vest over my genitals. Bite down. Turn your head. She
positions a machine next to my face, turns the light off and leaves. It beeps
and clicks and she flips the light back on, yanks the film from my mouth,

holds the tiny x-ray to the light. She grips my jaw and looks
in the cave of my mouth as if she's about to crawl inside. Humming,
she shoots a needle full of novocaine into the softest part of me.

I breathe loudly as she hushes me with an unexpected tenderness
that reminds me there is nothing cruel or unusual about this.