by Rachel Bruce

There’s a hole in your tooth.

My dentist appears from behind the glare of a lamp,
a sterile god.
As if he is weighing my heart in his hands.

I hear my meek response:
How did that get there?
I am trying to hold the panic from my voice.

Sometimes, he prophesises, food gets stuck where a toothbrush can’t reach.

The nurse loudly types something,
her scrubs rustling judgmentally.
My mouth feels suddenly dry.

I shiver. Is there anything in the hole?

No, but if I look closely,
I can read your thoughts in the decay.
I see grief staining your teeth –
a fair coating –
when you floss, try to pinpoint the trauma.
I see lost love, a heart-break;
for that, I’d try a sensitive toothpaste.
I think your fear of death is the primary cause.
Perhaps you could try living backwards?

Can you fix the hole? I ask.

Yes, he says, but it will cost you extra.