Poetry: My Dentist Detects Occlusal Loss by Abbie Kiefer

Abbie Kiefer’s poem shoves the reader in their body, lights up that “spectral record of root and bone” we call the poetic experience. In today’s world, of screens and headsets and thin sheets of glass glued to metal in every pocket, what else can we more desperately want from a poem?


My Dentist Detects Occlusal Loss

In the x-ray I’m diaphanous

undone from flesh:

++++++++++++++++++++spectral record

++++++++of root and bone

+++enamel I can’t keep
from wearing

He asks how often I wake
to aching.

+++++++++++I answer with teeth
that pestle their lacquer

++++++++++with tongue that slicks back
the dust while I sleep.

+++++++++Not an ache — it’s more
+++++++++++++++++++of a threading lament.

Still, teeth stay

++++after fire          under dirt
+++++++++pearled palmful in my sock drawer.
++++++++++++++++++Little milk teeth unthreaded
+++++with tender lament.

+++++++++++++Oh, I’m tender
+++++++++++++toward relics

the dentist’s long-gone
lightbox and its bloomed panes
of film.          The once-dim made discernible
++++in the open glow.


Now I tell myself
what I would say to my boys.

+++++++++It will only sting a little.
+++++++++You can be so brave. Just think
+++++++++of how your teeth will shine.

When the chair cants toward level
+++++++++++++my body follows. I let it.

I set my jaw soft
++++third time I’m asked.



Abbie Kiefer

Abbie Kiefer is a writer from New Hampshire. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Arts & Letters, The Cincinnati Review, Passages North, Poet Lore, Split Lip, and other places.

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