photo: cathcart; design: ADS

WE COULD NOT SAY, if we were asked, why we let them in this manner, it is the manner that is in question, brace open our mouth with rubber prop, sink long thin needles into the wet pink of our cheek, our gum, our spine, secreting anesthetic that will not prevent the throbbing that wakes us at night, that will allow them to bore into the enamel, the dentin, the very pulp, with miniature electric drill, why we obey commands to open, to bite down, not refuting the false apologetic chuckles at our discomfort as they pull our hair, leaning arms against the headrest, rinse with tiny garden hose, suck up drool with tiny vacuum, pinch our lips against our teeth with probe, pliers, spatula, mirror, forceps, excavator, all under bright light, our eyes behind dark glasses against the spray and the ultraviolet cure light drying amalgam, I and you and you in me, cramped and upside down in your sac of piss, kneading my bladder with your head, what’s mine is all yours—but it tells, in tense neck and shoulders, in waiting to be offered a bathroom break, accepting the lack of explanation for most everything they are doing inside, coming to ourselves after they have painted our nerves with disinfectant and filled our molar bed, holding our jaw rigidly open minutes after the procedure is over, pulling our own hair through the teeth of a comb, buttoning and zipping up, and for all of this, a crown. Listen to the music—oh, to squirm out of reach, to clamp shut.

Marit MacArthur’s poems and translations from Polish have appeared in ZYZZYVA, American Poetry Review, Watershed Review, The Levan Humanities Review, Jacket2, World Literature Today, Verse, Leveler, Peregrine, Airplane Reading, and Southwest Review. Honors include the Elizabeth Matchett Stover Award in 2013 and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for a poetry manuscript in 2013. In 2013, she earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College and in 2016, she served as a judge for the Ezra Pound Award for Literary Translation at the University of Pennsylvania. She is an associate professor of English at CSU Bakersfield and a research associate in Cinema and Digital Media at UC Davis.