Headway Happening Here

Smile

Last time it was Tuesday,
six months and four days ago.
The incredible Dr. S
managed a first—
pedaling the chair back just a bit,
your face more accessible,
sunglasses shielding your eyes
from too-bright light.

He touched twenty dulled pearls
with his counter,
probing slyly, quickly,
distracting with wide smiles,
silly faces, a joke
that floated far above
your comprehension.

Afterwards, the celebration—
high fives and calm way-to-gos,
Let’s do twenty two next time.
My swells of gratitude
at the way they keep voices low,
abstain from the balloon machine
in your presence,
mark progress in teeth “counted”,
remembering how much
does not apply here, with you.

The next date carves itself
into your mind’s firm clay
soon as your tuned ears hear
Yes, that Wednesday works,
11 am, only Dr. S, please—
and we were off,
out to lunch as promised,
basil eggplant and rice with soy sauce,
Mommy I have your lemon please?

Last eve he asked how it went,
this man who is more father
than your own ever was,

and my mind goes to
all those years
of terror and call-aheads—
Remember to have extra staff available,
three is best.
I’ll bring my own bowl
because she always vomits,
and please,
no whirring machines, lights low,
don’t even try to put metal in her mouth—

and then I’m back here
with him, with you,
and we see something like
(could it be?)
pride
lighting your round face
as you crow
I did so well
at the tooth doctor.

–Melinda Coppola

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