the overhead light is a python shining into my eyes.  
this office is full of hissing: drills, rotors, a hanging
S at the end of a passing sentence. 
they have taken so many x-rays
of my mouth these past few weeks

there the infected tooth stares back
in its gray and black graveyard
deep in its flaw



the doctor numbs me with a needle,
puts a cloth in my mouth, a cape
to make my face a superhero. 
it’s an uncomfortable placebo, 
makes me think of super-strength
defense as she scythes the pulp out of me



the doctor says god, 
this is a pulp boulder

I have been looking toward heaven
digging and scraping many silent minutes



a drill

bats squeal and fly from the cave of my tooth



the assistant tag-team switches for
a different assistant

the doctor says we’re finally getting somewhere

on the radio:
like a virgin. touched for the very first time



the scent of bone

or blood

or gum

or healing



the assistant says she visited the chickens last week
cute as dickens

I learn chickens have no bladders
and no bone marrow

and here I hold my urine



the doctor tells me open wide
shoving cotton in my mouth

shout, shout, let it all out



they’re trying to figure out the actress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
the doctor holds a scalpel over my mouth
the name at the tip of her tongue

I have an eternity to remember
Hodrey Hehurn I say

they’re proud
and there are no complications 


James Croal Jackson of Columbus, Ohio, is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere.