Chasing a Canal

C&O Canal by Sandcastlematt on Flickr

As I walked up Gray’s Inn Road, the rain came down in thick streams. The dampness working its way through the inadequate jacket that I had borrowed from my Mum’s coat rack.

I heard a slap and looked down to find the box of overpriced, organic salad that I had bought at the train station had fallen through the bottom of the paper bag, its contents of grated beetroot and carrot spilling on the paving stones.

I was late. I was hungry. The baby strapped to my chest had raindrops running down his cheeks. And, I was on my way to have root canal surgery for the second time in a week.


Heavy swing of doors
Shoes squeak on lino
Low buzz of voices

Papers rustle as he scribbles notes
With a fountain pen

My clothes slide on the vinyl
Chair reclines to horizontal

“Just a scratch”
Needle pierces my gum
Ice spreads through my jaw

“Have a rinse round”
I wash out the metallic anaesthetic
With powdery, pink swill of mouthwash
From a plastic cup

Rubber sheet fitted over my tooth
Gags me like a hostage
Smells strangely sweet
Like shopping mall cookie dough

The microscope looms over me
A large, staring, electronic eye
In the corner of my vision
Black and white x-ray films
Illuminated on a light box

The strip light overhead has fused
A large round clock marks
the slow

Metal instruments glint
Lowered into my mouth
By latex-gloved hands

The ultrasonic drill squeals
Like a knife edge on stone
Files inserted and turned
With a squeaky

Chlorine smell of the injected liquid
“Paper points – Size forty”
In out, in out
Jaw aching
“Paper points”
In out, in out
Again and again
Again and again

Furrowed brow
Hushed words over radiographs
Shaking heads

“Dress the tooth”
Concrete paste smeared into the hole
Chair raised to vertical
Head prickling

“I’m afraid it has not been possible
To locate the canal.”

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