Bio Note: I am a non-practicing vegan, nontheist, jogger, gardener, poet, and songwriter—with seventeen personalities, always fixing for a fight. I am happiest blowing leaves, making snowflakes out of toilet paper rolls, folk-dancing, and writing. My most recent poetry books are SHOUT! Poetry for Suffrage, in which I write from the points of view of key figures in the battle for franchise; Beware the House, inspired by my Transylvanian vampire family; and Surfing for Jesus, on the intersection between contemporary religion and commerce.
The White House Needed a Root Canal
While the assistant slapped hooks, and gauze, and hose attachments into my dentist’s hands, the television suspended in the corner droned Fox reported recounts, crashing planes, COVID stats, impending storms, and The White House wall blocking the sandstone colonnades, tall windows, and doors painted white. And I prayed, End, oh, dentist the swelling, infected pustule; the inflamed abscess throbbing in my mouth, threatening brain disease; the heat I couldn’t bear without yowling pain; the crown compromised by decay. Dentist and assistant helicoptered above me with riot masks and weapons— anesthesia—multiple shots—bitter squirts; the drilling—the whine—the buzz— the sirens jack-hammering in my head; the barbed broaches they shoved into my roots to skewer and ream out the rot, the pulp, the nerve. Nine COVID months, I told myself the pain was merely sinus pressure, grinding my teeth, referred pain—in denial—like the president was about the pandemic and the election. They dammed up my mouth with a surgical Kofferdam rubber; wedged a bite block between my teeth to pry open my jaws for two hours; jammed up my mouth with their fingers and thumbs, so I couldn’t talk, couldn’t say Stop. Go. Now. Suction, suction, the dentist commanded —flush, blow. Still, the drool leaked out of the corner of my mouth, down my neck, choking me, as the president choked our smooth transition to health. All this, to conserve my tooth, upper right; save my face from caving in, cheeks hollowing into my skull. Oh, pearly White House, your North Face looks like a grin, again; your dangling light, a bell in your throat. We’ve left your roots where a new crown presides—your bite realigned, fever broken. Must have been so good to rinse and spit!
Singing in an Empty Church
Single electric candle lights on clear lancet window sills. No wash of headlights from departing 4X4s and sedans. No pastor. No pianist. No faithful since pandemic. I park my Prius by the blocked trailhead, poke in the code to unlock the side door, press the baby grand’s B-flat key for my Phantom of the Opera song. I, who accompanied my divorced mother to Sunday mass, her lace-and-beribboned ornament; I, praised for how still I kept while she solo-ed; I, Glee Club nuns’ choice alto, because I stayed on pitch backing sopranos in their soaring; I, who made harmony of family harm, hurtled hurts, promenade down the nave, spread my arms wide to the pews; breathe full my belly and chest and face to sing Christine D.’s longing, pierce through my new high G on the word strength; the struts and beams of this old vaulted ceiling, my back-up altos, tenors, baritones, echoing Wishing I could hear your voice, again.
©2021 Susanna Rich
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