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Dry Socket

ISSUE:  Winter 1985
I turn over on my left side, so the blood can drain off the
  bad nerve—200 pound head,
hair festering like a turnip in its dark soil, nails curling and
for the feather and scale, for the rubbery jugular inside the
  throat of the lamb.
Time throbs now, like a star. I nurse a little numbness from
  the clove.
I let warmth swell from the itchy towel wadded under the
This is the pain of divination, Job’s pain, condensed,
From one o’clock to the earliest light tipping the thrushes
behind my blind neighbor’s house to take up again their
  insane litany,

I am running my tongue along its enamel walls, polishing
  the leopard teeth and the cow teeth.
I am planing this altar-piece in my mouth. I am
  worshipping the thorny and the essential:
the mare with her foundered hoof; the field lark, her beak
  cracked by pellets.
It is something for the self, and something for the beast
  and godliness.
At its edge, the orange Valiant struggles off towards
  Reynolds’ Aluminum,
the paper thuds on the front porch. I can feel the sun
  pumping its clear oil into the apertures of lilies.
I am thinking, first, of the blonde boy from first grade,
his teeth rotted black by Milky Ways, then of the carpenter
  who lives
two doors down the street, his good smile splintered by
  hammers and crowbars.
But, finally, it is my old shepherd, toothless and fierce, who
  comes back to me each morning,
toothmarked and torn, his pretty coat matted with the clay-
  colored blood.
Three-legged, half-blind, he cannot give it up. His
  stupidity and vainglory keep him snapping
at the unrelenting night, even when it catches him and
  tosses him.
The clenched jaws shake at his withers and snout, yank,
  and he breaks with a popping
of cartilage, with a rifle-shot of bone, so he crawls back
  through the green cockleburs of exile.
When I find him, slumped against the tin of his toolshed,
  still as a feed bag, all the look gone
that sobered meanness, the look soaking to the center of
  his deep bruise, each morning
when I touch him, wading into the shallow breath at the
  end of his pride,
I place my hand in his mouth and take the tongue he will

I cradle the fruit of his toothless gum, delivered to the
  aurora of abscess, thinking, in pain’s pure
meditation, how the tooth was named for wisdom because
  it came in so slowly.


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