by Linda Crosfield

The year I turned sixteen
the need for cash and clothing
drove me to find a job,
so after school and Saturdays
I trudged the stairs to Dr. Conneybear’s,
typed invoices, answered the phone,
called the reluctant to remind of appointments
they mostly preferred to forget.

I learned to develop X-rays,
sterilize instruments in the autoclave,
put everything away in its proper little drawer,
then moved on to more exciting stuff—
passing instruments to the dentist,
rinsing stained and drooling mouths.
Providing tissues. Taking them away.

Once, I stuck the suction tube
right on the back of Gary Ridgemore’s tongue—
he’d wrecked my playhouse when we were kids.
I loved how it made him gag,
the fleeting terror in his eyes.

I never got the hang of mixing silver amalgam;
mine was always too thick, too thin, too late,
till Dr. Conneybear clicked his tongue
against his perfect teeth and made his own.

First time I saw a full-mouth extraction
the room eclipsed to black,
I slid discreetly down the wall
which upset the patient more
than what was happening in his head,
abandoned plans to be a nurse,
took to writing poetry instead.

PHOTO: The author at 16.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was birthed a few years ago for a contest to do with work-related poetry. I’d actually forgotten some of the details until I started writing it. Names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. It didn’t win, but it’s one that’s fun to present at readings.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Crosfield’s work appears in several literary magazines including Room, The Minnesota Review, The Antigonish Review, The New Orphic Review, and in several chapbooks and anthologies, including the Silver Birch Press Nancy Drew Anthology. Through her micro press, Nose in Book Publishing, she publishes chapbooks and handmade journals. In 2014 one of her poems was short-listed for Room Magazine’s annual contest and in 2015 she participated in Rocking the Page, a program that involved presenting poetry online and in classrooms in southeastern British Columbia, Canada. She lives in Ootischenia, British Columbia, at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers. She blogs sporadically at and to this day has an aversion to all forms of dentistry. To read more about her please visit her website