NOTICE: You are currently viewing an ARCHIVED version of the Waccamaw. Visit the redesigned site.


                                    David Bruzina

As he works, the dentist tells his patient
a joke always about to be funny
in a life-altering belly laugh way,
so that the patient leans into the drill
urging the joke forward
like the slow horse in a race
across a spring meadow ankle deep
in violets—

but the joke never pays off.
After describing the Antarctic monastery
and the naked clowns and the drunk
Ringmaster in his pith helmet,
the dentist squirts a mouthful of cool clean
water, splashing the trickle against
his patient’s teeth, against his patient’s tongue,
sucking up the little puddle of warm gritty water,
and letting in a last fresh
mouthful to swallow—

the mouth’s owner so grateful now
that though he or she waits and asks
for the last lines, the dentist can smile
and usher his patient out, all protest muffled,
the cheeks and tongue still numb,
the monks and penguins and circus
gazelles (the slow horse in the meadow)
not arriving

no matter how riddled the teeth,
how crooked the mouth.

Copyright 2017 Waccamaw. All reprint rights reserved by authors.