The Dentist Who Can’t Control His Hands

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December 15, 2013 by The Citron Review

By Abra Bertman


He is a yanker, his metal cool as stone.
Jar of amalgam, a little polish, friends

say he should quit his day job, leave the girl
and her rocking bassinettes, go on the road

with his sax. The babes, they say, line up
pearly white and flashing. The trick

is to be ambidextrous. On one hand leaving
would be easy. He could scrap bridges, crowns

crash back stage, file
sharp notes like x-rays, lose

euphony, the radio junk. In his office
he wipes the instruments, sets the chair

to “down,” takes out a short cigarette and
weighs the stain where he breathes.

Girls, he thinks, in the blush of thongs
an arpeggio of push-up bras, quick and dirty

tussles in the back room, the dim lights…
Do his fingers still know how?

At home the teething baby coughs.
She holds it and smiles for the eightieth time.

Wind rips through the trees out back, good
jazz on the stereo and night is full

of peculiar harmony. His fingers drum and jerk
new songs. Old tunes play just as well.

Under the chair his horn is hushed.
They have to tip-toe now. The child

takes a step and falls. His heart bursts
when a small hand curls around his finger.


Abra Bertman is an American poet who writes and teaches writing in Amsterdam. Recent poems have appeared in Other Poetry, About Place Journal and the Midwest Literary Magazine. She is also author of the poem “When the World Comes Home,” the product of a long-standing collaboration with jazz pianist Franz von Chossy, which appears in the liner notes of the CD of the same name.

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