Wednesday, February 12, 2014


For weeks I have had pain in my front tooth, which is capped. It all began with a lunch hour nap in my office. Last week, I began to think I might need a root canal. Doesn't that procedure bring terror? Thankfully now root canals are quite benign compared to the pain, and so I was resigned to it when I went to the dentist Monday to check on the tooth. After an x-ray, Dr. Stone said I don't need a root canal. Joy, relief! He proceeded to file down the cap so that it wouldn't nip my lower teeth. I sleep at night with a bite plate because I clench my teeth (called bruxism), which has eased sensitivity in my teeth over the years almost completely. But, when I take a nap on my office couch, I don't have my bite plate. Perhaps that should change.


My teeth throb
after waking from a nap

on my office couch. I clench
my teeth in the forest

of sleep where mind-snakes
glissade across branches.

How many they are! Metallic,
white as chalk, mortally

virulent in the heel of my
spirit. Consciously, I try

to hold my jaw open
like the gate of my head

against the kilim pillow
where a tribe of stick men

armed with blue and red
woolen stitches hold firm

against embroidered beasts.
But as sleep moves its cloud

across my face, a small
warrior clamps shut my mouth.

Awake, I feel in the great walls
of my teeth that this fortress

held true against marauders,
quiet now, asleep

alas — inside the tower!


  1. Those beautifully vivid images put us in the dream.

  2. Happiness is not having to have a root canal! ;-)

    1. Yes, The Broad, the blessings of life!

  3. Incredible how you craft these words into tangible imagery! "...mind snakes glissade..." I'm cringing actually....

  4. Nice work — both dentally and poetically! Interesting, the relationship between the involuntary clenching and the dreams. And slightly anxiety-making, though that final exclamation mark softens.

    1. Thanks, Robert. Actually I wonder if it's dreams, or simply the buried tensions of life?

  5. I will never forget these images, Ruth, when I put in my own bite plate each night! Wow. You and your vivid imagination! I love this...and especially that you didn't need a root canal. Yes, you will need to start using your bite guard at work. What an easy fix. :)

    1. Thanks, Boots. I still haven't taken the bite plate with me to work. It is such an expensive little device, I'm afraid of something happening to it with all that carting back and forth!

  6. While I have not had any problems with bruxism, I can certainly relate to much of the imagery in this poem, especially those moments "in the forest of sleep where mind-snakes glissade across branches." Wow! That's powerful. And, yes, what a relief when we are finally able to find quiet sleep in "inside the tower."

    1. Thank you, George. Last night was one of those nights it was difficult to quiet the mind-snakes. I realize that the ending of the poem is not clear, and that what I tried to develop in the poem did not quite come across. I meant to convey that the little warriors embroidered on the pillow might be helping me fight off mind-snakes, but that, in the end, when I wake up, those mind-snakes are asleep inside the tower of my head. They are internal "monsters" — all the tensions, "evils", whatever psychological foes we bury in subconsciousness. But fighting them and shutting them out does no good, because we are really shutting them in! I would need to work on the ending to make that more clear. Thanks so much for reading.

  7. Oh, the forest of sleep--wonderful imagery! But who sleeps within the tower (I'm dense) the marauders, or you?

    1. DS, thank you. I see now that my ending is not clear. I explained a bit to George, above. I hope that makes sense now?

      It is always tricky, isn't it, knowing how much to "tell" in a poem? But as I've learned (or not learned) time and again, revision is a writer's friend, especially when the beloved reader doesn't get it. :)

    2. Okay, that's sort of what I thought, and it did make sense that way. We never truly chase those mind-snakes out (or i don't).
      Yes, the "telling" is tricky. I need work on that, as with so much else. Revision is a good friend; I need to become closer to her ; )

  8. I will never see the dentist's office the same way again.

    (Happy to hear you did not require a root canal. Have had two myself, as well as an implant, which is ever more fun!)


All responses are welcome.