I’ve always had a deep sick fear
of tooth decay. Something within me,
something far too near
rotting, eroding, putrefying.
The thought scares me awake at night,
as if I smelled something burning.
Maintaining perfect pearly whites
was a way of taming deep-set demons,
keeping clean keeping whole, with that bright
enamel a badge of personal victory.
It said “I’m good, I’m restrained, I don’t indulge, I’m pure,
I’m unsullied by that mercury, wet and silvery.”
I would scour teeth and gums,
not content until the bloody toothpaste
spreads bright across the porcelain, white overcome
with metallic red. Mouth washed raw
with astringent mint, tongue a fizzing numbness,
oral hygiene my character’s pathetic tragic flaw.
Four years ago, the dentist poked
and remarked on molars ground flat, a jaw strained taught,
and pronounced my fate: a tooth choked
with rot, begging to be drilled and filled,
mummified in composite and any shame hidden.
I refused, moved dentist, all knowledge denied until my fear was stilled.
Another waiting room, another pastel coloured chair
tacky with the repeated spray of disinfectant –
but of course it followed, ignored but going nowhere,
spreading, deepening, growing always more confident.