I’m a prisoner in a dentist’s chair.

My mouth is on fire and stinks of smoke.
It curls in the air as he drills chunks
of a molar as if mining
for bits of bituminous coal
in harder-to-find coal seams
of Appalachia.

I thank the dead man
who donated his bones
so a graft could be built
for a bone of my own
in a hole the dentist just dug.

The dentist jokes about a marlin
that got away from his Boston Whaler
while his drill inflicts misery
in my gaping mouth.

Freud called it sublimated sadism:
The pleasure of hurting someone
in order to relieve suffering.

Helpless as a victim, all I could do
to sustain relentless pain
was focus on my breath
in a mindful way.

Conscious breathing, deep and slow,
allows me to discover keys to rooms
I never knew I had.

My very first breath;
the ebb and flow of life,
and musings about the day
when I would breathe my last.

Deeply relaxed and detached from pain,
I am able to let go of my plan of revenge
to land an uppercut on Dr. Szell’s jaw
as soon as I am free to leap from the chair.