UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY
DENNIS MAHAGIN

WORSE

The dentist,
who looked a lot like Don
Imus in tightie-white linen
smock, with a pucker

of sour milk smirk--as though to button
a shocking secret hidden between the sleeve
of his upper lip and starkly gleaming canine
at the pink gum line,

this dentist he leaned over me, inquiring about
variously acceptable anesthetic aesthetics;

I looked him straight in the Adam’s Apple, said
I preferred to be splashed by the nitrous gas, or at
least some uncut morphine drilled into the funny
bone hollow beneath my left ear lobe. That, at
any rate was the Plan.

“Sorry, I’m a Lidocaine Man," this Imus said,
in a pristinely husky Anglo Saxon voice dripping
condescension and a Numb Bottom Lip-Look
gave me to believe there was no choice but
to open up wider, when he said so, and go
wider and wider still, if that’s what it took.

* *

I tell you, this Extraction from Hell, like
Hamburger Hill battle of bulging abscessed
chipmunk cheek chock-full of steaming hot pus,
took a little over 4 hours,

my stubborn throbbing molar actually broke off
the stainless steel head of Doc Donny’s best Dime Store forceps,
I could hear the chunks hit the instrument tray, and knew that no
rotten tooth would ever ring out in quite that way…

  “Time for Plan B,” I heard Imus say; and he got
down then, friends, with scalpel and trowel-like
entrenching tool, with a wrestler’s leverage and
infantry man’s scowl, he took out that unholy tooth
in sections, like some kind of archeologist's dig
at Chateau Thierry or Phnom Pen, you dig?

And that was the worst, right? That must have been
the absolute undeniable worst, and for damned sure.


Dear archivist, inquiring Mind, builder of phallic black
marble monuments to the wretched Everyman Grunt, the
bled-dry, piled sky-high on slow-floating tugboat pyres
down frothy Potomac, 'twas pretty fucking

bad, but hardly
the worst, 

in fact the longer I hang around this planet
Earth, dates with Docs such as Donny fill up
my memory mind like cherry slush cone
juice and Junior Mint mush—rushing
into a brand new cavity... a theater interlude,
if you will, or benign beach stroll leaving

footprints in hills of sand like miniature
fox holes slowly filling with salt water and
jelly fish plasma-- ten barefoot little squiggly
piggy toes digging the damp, making those
sucking chest wound sounds that give breath
the brief Right of Way, in the wake of more
bloody artillery craters coming all too soon--for
existence to feel suspiciously like a war.

* *

"Now, which pharmaceutical
do you prefer for the pain?" Imus inquired,
in a whipped, gravelly refrain, sea water rushing
right back out again, singing:

squish… squish…squish…squish…
splish - wish splish - squish - wish
splish - squish- wish - sssshhhhhhh...


  --all of it
as bloody undercurrent for explicit
instructions Miss Assistant Nurse
Hygienist will always list,

right after the fourteenth tooth gets pulled she'll
tell you for the fourteenth time not to go around

sucking anything
for a fortnight at least, lest
the tender jaw bone blood clot

break-- under some
dusky Hawthorne tree in pharmacy

parking lot, whose canopy of needle-sharp
leaves makes a perfect blind spot for a filthy
dreadlocked tweaker with a foot of lead pipe,
and dough boy bandage drooped low over one
eye—3 days into hard drug withdrawal, waiting
patiently to take you off your paltry refill issue

of Percocet,
which will seem like the absolute
worst thing, but of course it is not—not
ever, not hardly,
not yet.


Dennis Mahagin's debut poetry collection,
entitled "Grand Mal", is forthcoming from
Suspect Thoughts Press. His work has appeared
in 3 A.M. Magazine, 42opus, Deep Cleveland,
FRiGG, Stirring, and Absinthe Literary
Review, among other publications. He lives
and works in Washington State.







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