When the dentist’s drill
harrows the soft

mess of gum, it is
to dig for bone—

fractured trident,
three bits of shrapnel

from a forgotten war.
You’d think it easy

to stick an instrument
into the open mouth

and fish out the offending
objects: except the smallest

of the body’s particles
is still part of the whole,

and hurt is the invisible
sinew suturing all

together. It takes an hour
alternating through

extractor tips and sizes,
the needle thrice

replenished with numbing
medicine. It takes

cajoling, talking
to the three dead bones

that hold, as if
in stubborn, final

standoff. When at last
they give, it’s not

surrender: they
want it known

they’ve called
no truce. They

want it known
their substance

is old as dragon seeds
sown in soil to birth

rows of soldiers ready
to go to war.

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