On the Origin of the Fear of Dentists

From an archeological dig
out of Mehrgarh in Pakistan, a relic
surfaces - a maxillary left

Second molar from an adult male.

On the occlusal surface, under light,
a single, deep, in vivo perforation.
Shaft anchored in a hollowed stone,

I imagine a sturdy bow-drill

In the palm, rotated by a stringed bow.
At its other end, a drill-bit of flint,
tipped to a crude, sharpened, conical point,

Braced against the wavering tooth.

Even now I hear the sound, from
somewhere deep in the Indus Valley,
echoing across nine thousand years

A Neolithic primal scream.


65 comments:

  1. remnants in heart of being human. So much here in four verses about humanity and perhaps care/love.

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  2. I like the new title. fear and teeth are so very human. the care/love I am referring to has to do with the mention of the archeological dig.... there seems to be much searching-heart that goes into that profession.

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  3. What else can I say? I'm Courtney's echo.
    A good poem!

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  4. Oh! And dentists are indeed a primal scream for me..brilliantly conceived!

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  5. I'm glad the poem touches a nerve!

    Short link - http://bit.ly/s4dentist

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  6. I have a feeling that primitive dentists didn't live very long!

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  7. haha...i cant stand the dentist so if they ever excavate me i will def be screaming as well...great set up for that punch line sam...smiles.

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  8. Fantastic. Gave me the shivers. When I was a kid, dental practice was not as streamlined as it is today - the drill was loud and slow and sounded like a jackhammer.......no lie. And the nurse would slap me if I cried.

    My grandma once went to the dentist and they had no freezing back then. When the dentist poked her mouth, her leg shot up and tossed his tray of implements all over the room.........I felt that primal scream deep within my wells of memory, where dental phobia is firmly fixed:)

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  9. I agree with Sherry. This poem gave me shivers as well. I really cannot imagine what it must have been like back in the stone age! Even to PULL teeth back them, yikes!! Thankfully I haven't had to had anything done in a few decades.

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  10. Yes this poem gave me the shivers. What pain it must have caused to remove an inflamed tooth so primitively. From the beginnings of dentistry fear was the filling in each tooth.

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  11. Sweet metaphor. gripping read, definitely had a feel of edge to me, love the word choices and the way each seemed perfectly placed amongst their cohorts here. Great write. Thanks

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  12. The dentist's chair may have gotten more plush, but the procedure's never changed. Science changes nothing of our tenuous perch in this life. Nice. - Brendan

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  13. Your poems indeed are often rubies. This one grabbed me from the title! My husband is a retired dentist, and no-one was ever afraid of him.

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  14. LOL...the danger of primitive dentistry...a neolithic primal scream from the patient and a punch in the head for the witch doctor:)

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  15. I hate going to the dentist but at least it's gotten better than it used to be.

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  16. Yikes for the primal scream...nice use of textures to sharpen the experience ~

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  17. Holy crap Batman!!!! That made me cringe and break out in goose flesh. that would be one slow speed drill....lol. wow, way to get a reaction...painful but wonderful writing.

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  18. The last poem I read here was the dinosaur/relationship one, and this follows in similar vein. I love the imaginative supposition of the origins of the mark, and the link back to some primordial ancestor, whose cries ring clear today.

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  19. The past is always in us--and only greater pain could possibly brace someone to open their mouth to the drill--in any age! Loved it Sam--I was going to say, very tongue in cheek, but I doubt there'd be room.

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  20. Oh yeah. I, too, hate dentists. I always wish they could make a drill that sounded like Mozart instead of a mosquito on steroids. What a great poem!

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  21. a truly impressive write, Sam, from the title to the "Neolithic primal scream" - a scream like that, even across 9000 years, would surely account for our (mostly unfounded) fear of dentists today

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  22. Sam~ This is writing at its best. You introduce a seemingly uninteresting scene and then illuminate the wonder and detail. One of my goals is to see the wonder and detail all around me, every day. You are modeling, teaching me to improve that skill. Thank you!

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  23. So impressive Sam, I love the way you use words... occlusal is just... delicious! This poem reminds me a little of my childhood experiences at the dentist; not that I'm afraid, but there are some rather uncomfortable treatments I'd soon rather forget!

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  24. I have just experienced the most poetic root canal ever! My goodness, Sam...your topics are just fantastic and refreshing. Who knew a dentist could be made to sound so good...the words are lyrical...but their sting is much like the sound of that drill I have so come to dread! Awesome!

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  25. Your poem has drilled into our collective unconscious, Sam ~ a richly descriptive write & an interesting format of four times three plus one. Love it!

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  26. Ha!! I LOVE this!! I'm terrified, absolutely terrified of the dentist. This is great!

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  27. I'm just blinking .... stunned. This poem is awesome! I wanted to bring a bit of drill humour into it, but... I can't. Just WOW. Excellent write!

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  28. I love it. One of your best. I'm glad you shared this; it's the one you recently referenced in our conversation regarding title selection.

    Every word is precisely chosen and placed: poetic perfection. The build-up working toward that primal scream.

    An effective line closing the gap:
    "echoing across nine thousand years"

    This is my favorite section:
    "On the occlusal surface, under light,
    a single, deep, in vivo perforation.
    Shaft anchored in a hollowed stone"

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  29. root canals and poetry... You DID it! :)

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  30. It's funny but very good. It's funnier because the poem was already good!

    Teeth are pretty loaded in terms of meaning and connotation. Very interesting...

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  31. Gritting my teeth as I write this.... Yikes.. shudders.

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  32. I'm always fascinated by archaeological discoveries and what they say about humanity before us. Your poem echoes that passion. Thank you for your encouraging comments on my blog.

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  33. On second read, this is incredibly creative. Love the imagery and allusion about the trip to a dentist and archaeological passions.

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  34. oww...and beautiful too.

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  35. Woooow. I never thought I could enjoy a poem about dentistry but you rocked this!

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  36. Haha, a poem with perfect diction, fascinating history, and great delivery. I love my dentist, she's an angel, but I hate my oral surgeon. I think he's related to that guy (he jarred me so much when I had my wisdom teeth out that I awoke while under IV sedation - didn't help I participated in the pain trial afterward where I clearly received the placebo).

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  37. So that explains it!
    I thought I was being all irrational.

    Very rational poetry here.

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  38. Shudder. Yup. You really hit this one just right. I love the subtext here - how *do* you manage to convey so much so succinctly yet so powerfully?! :)

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  39. I wanted to say the tongue in cheek thing, but Joy beat me to it. Excellent! Ouch!

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  40. see...even a visit at the dentist sounds like a trip into another world ..and maybe it is...touching deep on our roots and nerves...ouch...very cool write sam..next time i'm at the dentist, i will surely remember this..

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  41. ..and i meant it sounds like this when you write about it...that's what makes the difference of a poet and a reporter..just saying...brilliant sam..

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  42. Having had my first dental work done in the fifties, when dental anesthesia was in its infancy, I so relate to this painfully precise poem.

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  43. Primitive dentists worked fast. They had to hurry back to their construction site and crush rock.

    Your work just opened my eyes. Gonna quit writing poems, and stick to playing violin--grin!

    PEACE!

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  44. we forget with history comes so many individual, personal stories... you've captured that for us today

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  45. Thanks for stopping by and to find such fun with the way you drilled these words into our nerves... made me feel each word!
    Been reading a bit of your wonderful poetry... glad I found you!

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  46. I really enjoyed your poem, especially the connections..
    'Even now I hear the sound, from
    somewhere deep in the Indus Valley,
    echoing across nine thousand years'

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  47. I think I must print this and take it with me when I go to the dentist. It will help me accept the modern methods of dentistry.

    This was such a good write. I love your combination of the primal with something to which we can all relate.

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  48. the anatomical and archaeological precision of this piece really makes it magical... i might accuse you of taking yourself too seriously with the language if it weren't for the tongue in cheek nature of the topic-- a perfect balance... bravo.

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  49. I like how you took an archaeological find and made it livid. I just found your site and I'm looking forward to reading more.

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  50. See - this is the scientist in you. I would have thought - "Wow they were clever with tools back then too" and moved on. Not you, you deconstructed the story and constructed a brilliant poem - sort of a root canal - replacing the decaying one with a lasting "art"ificial one!

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  51. Ha! Very clever. I think of that movie--Marathon Man?--the nazi dentist, I believe--terrifying! K.

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  52. Ha! I love it! When I read the title, I didn't envision that we'd be taken back to the Indus Valley. I love the sound echoing across thousands of years-- like an arrow arcing across the continents -- and that hits its mark. Perfect ending.
    (I can a d'Verse prompt emerging from this-- poetry from archaeology, perhaps?) :)

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  53. you have humanized a simple thing that everyone can relate, still echoing in my dentists office, it's imitation ;)

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  54. I read the title after the poem and thought you were refering to the practice of drilling a hole in the skull to relieve intercranial pressue. Yikes. I do know that was practiced centuries ago. But yes, the fear of dentists is primal, for sure. Very fun poem...not so fun to think about the reality, though.

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  55. I hate the dentist - and the grandeur of your wordplay, seeing the mouth as a valley- the teeth as an archaeological dig just beautifully enlarges the scene from the dentists chair- and the primal scream- I can hearnthendrill bit buzzing! Fantastic word choices here Sam- and great imagination to turn these images into something so cinematic

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  56. What an amazing thing... to create this poetic piece around the dentist!
    You've taken something so simple that we can all relate to and given it this rhythmic life --

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  57. Indeed, those voices and lives of beings long ago, so distant from us in time yet strangely so near in primitive pains or joys whose ghosts haunt us yet. As always, the clarity strikes me force, but always told with such finesses and creative passion.

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  58. Ouch! I felt that. That means you did your job too well. But that's ok. I truly appreciate your craft and intention with this one. :-)

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  59. This is amazing! Dentists - yes, I relate but you have done so in a dramtaic and wonderful manner! I shall remember this piece! xoxo

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  60. i like the tone of this, that you can hear the primal scream from the distance of time

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  61. oh... shudders.... which means, in other words, very well done!

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  62. but all i can say is ow!...
    I meant WOW!

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  63. Very clever. Wonderfully done!

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