Dental Hygiene

Bayou Bartholomew

Bayou Bartholomew


The dental hygienist didn’t talk about her boyfriend
or her latest home improvement project or even
the movie she saw on Netflix, so funny,
she couldn’t stop laughing.

She yanks a blue hydration tube.
Bangs cover her eyes,
a mask hides her mouth. She is a friendly mole
dressed in a smock with pictures of Wilma Flintstone

who labors at divesting my teeth of tartar.
There are no clouds on the ceiling like in Ernie’s office,
my Oakland dentist who built his practice
catering to Medicaid recipients,

owned a share in a pizza delivery business,
handed out cards saying, Get Drilled at Ernie’s.
This office has none of that charm, except for
a garden outside the window

matted with orange zinnias and yellow snapdragons
and Dr. Jan Bagwell who has saved my mouth
on more than one occasion,
bright red lipstick her calling card.

A place where water is suspect,
and how guns are a hobby,
you could say a way of life, not the assault rifles
of my old neighborhood trained

on rival gang members and errant police officers,
but on deer ambling through the piney woods,
and how people in these parts
have enough aunts, uncles, and cousins

to fill up a school gymnasium, and
hand-me-down quilts made by grandmothers
with a life-time backing,
not the Bay Area aquarium

filled with anemones and neon-colored gravel
on every incoming tide, a mixed soup,
a Vietnamese Pho, basil and scallions,
not the bayou trembling

with marsh grass,
cypress stirring the pot
waiting for the sky to torch,
a scrim of thunder, the rain.

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About Lenore Weiss

Lenore's collections include "Tap Dancing on the Silverado Trail" (2011) from Finishing Line Press, “Sh’ma Yis’rael” (2007) from Pudding House Publications, and "Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island" (West End Press, 2012). Her writing has won recognition from Poets&Writers (finalist in California Voices contest) and as a finalist for Pablo Neruda Prize, Nimrod International Journal. The Society for Technical Communication has recognized her work regarding Technical Literacy in the schools. All material is copyrighted on this site and cannot be used without the author's permission.
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2 Responses to Dental Hygiene

  1. Fran Parker says:

    Perceptive and true. We can’t trust faucet water because various companies ignore EPA rules and go unregulated. One greedy water system owner in West Monroe was finally charged when the NewsStar ran a photo of sewage flowing directly into a broken water pipe. My family in rural Ouachita Parish live in a beautiful area often plagued by orange or brown sludge. City of Monroe’s water lines are antiquated. A friend living in an exclusive North Monroe says five people on her street have cancer. It’s so rampant that M.D. Anderson in Houston is doing a study of why so many residents of our parish have cancer. Simple: tainted water and air pollution from certain manufacturers.

    • Lenore Weiss says:

      Read Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin, an amazing nonfiction book that won the Pulitzer in 2013, amazingly researched story about a 30-year struggle to force Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical)’ and United Water to compensate the affected community. Also a history of epidemiology and how it does and doesn’t work to effectively document in courts of law cancer-ridden communities. And how community organizing is central to force foot-dragging agencies and politicians to do their jobs. Highly recommend! A story about a specific area of the country but universal in what is happening. The Ouachita is being poisoned bt run-off from Georgia Pacific in Crossett, Arkansas.

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