I used to think the very act
of coming out
to this frontier town,
to this slat-walled refuge
set down in the wild light
and crooning darkness,
would be sufficient.
A proof of concept.
Like I could purchase
with an act of unexpected boldness.
Without thinking it per se,
I believed that
after packing just my necessaries
and lashing them down,
selling the house and the grandfather clock,
then riding west across
creaking leagues of hunger and cold,
creeping ever closer to that fiery horizon
set with slinking, four-legged shadows
and the blackened silhouettes
of wide-rimmed sharpshooters,
certain things would be behind me.
I kept my storefront modest
and well-painted. Well-lit.
I was polite in my dealings.
My ambitions were trimmed right down,
and I had many a neighborly conversation.
But still, I had this toothache
at the center of my being,
something that snuck up on me,
a wounding numbness
that was spreading
despite my every earnest labor with
diversified horsehair brushes,
pastes of pulverized charcoal and brick,
and brandied potions of sage, peppermint and salt.
It was leaking out through my bedroom window
and through the neighboring fields
underneath the nighttime stars,
to where the cows had bloated
and rolled moaning onto their side,
to where the sanded winds got riled up
and tore through town like stampeding furies.
It pained me sometimes,
while I was taking inventory,
or while walking along
I went and saw the dentist.
He had this little shop
I’d always avoided,
a nook down the alley.
There was no wait.
I was surprised to ascertain
that he understood
all about the phenomenon
of a non-local toothache.
He wrote me a prescription
for healing by the means
of ever-present holy sensations.
Tore it off his pad
and jammed it in my shirt pocket.
Slapped me on the back
and turned me loose.
How’s it work?
Next time that ache comes on,
you just pull out your prescription
and read it.
So that’s what I did.
About two days later.
First thing is:
your heart is not a tooth.
Therefore, it is not susceptible to decay.
But you will ache like one
for however long you are confused on this point.
Breath this idea
into every hidden cavity of your being
and savor it like a two dollar peppermint paste.
before any more cows turn sideways.
Let us both enjoy a full night’s sleep,