In the Chair
Comfortable chair of suffering,
sculpted as if for the godlet Gazza
manifest in a Hong Kong bar
where the victim is seated open-mouthed,
anaesthetized with booze as he writhes,
till he disappears inside himself.
I too writhed, under the gas, barely ten,
dreamed of waking into the agony
of a dentist’s drill whining into my teeth;
then I did, and one was, and the spasm
proves Pavlov right these fifty years and more.
Now we are welcomed to the orthodontist’s
as old friends, our anxiety drained
by low-volume soap amid high-gloss magazines;
work plans are drawn up, each item on the estimate
set out with name and cost
and air of inevitability.
In the corridor, nurses come and go, dissecting Doctors Guglielmin and Sarafo.
And so it starts. The feeling is foul
as a probe into the gums
yields pus and blood as well as pain,
all in small quantities.
Infantilization rules as the hygienist talks
to the foreigner in childspeak,
while struggling to deal
with computer mapping of bleed-easy gums.
Next, the real McCoy.
Gentle Doctor Dentist delights in showing
slides of his good work down the years,
then settles into action,
trying to save the patient
the pain he needs
to pinpoint the rot.
Smoking Malay gum spirals from smouldering roots.
Before it assumes the shape of a genie,
it twists in on itself and disappears
as though into a black hole.
In toolboxes, colleagues nurture canal-filling gutta-percha.
I leave with an anaesthetic grimace, or smirk.
Hygienist again: the sound of her scraper
worse than the drill’s: more raw,
more like a personal attack.
I emerge as the city will from snow:
faded, jaded, presumably cleaner.
Next, a “Silent Way” language lesson
as dentist and assistant chatter
over my gagged mouth
before releasing me
into the everyday world outside it.
So many sessions that my winter walk
to that clinic and its counter-cultural search
for excellence melts into Spring.
It gets bizarre. At the hygienist’s,
a masked marauder arrives, injects painkiller,
announces a need for future pain;
dentist and assistant don
protective shades against disco lights
that turn amalgam hard.
A final chance for hurt: the dentist hacks
wayward cement from pulverized gums,
and then my greatest wish,
an end to pain outside my control,comes true.
Bryan Murphy divides his time among England, Italy, the wider world and cyberspace. He is the author of the e-books Postcards From Italy, Linehan’s Trip, Linehan Saves, Murder By Suicide, Heresy, Breakaway and Goodbye, Padania. He welcomes visitors at: http://www.bryanmurphy.eu