Examination of Conscience

by Gary Mesick

You can lie to a priest
In a way you can never lie
To your dentist.  Every probe,
Every x-ray, every scaling,
Will extract the truth from your
Too-long neglected and recidivous gums.
Again you will resolve (sincerely this time)
To floss twice daily.
Amen.

My priest listens.
My dentist doesn’t need to hear.
There is no forgiveness
In dental health — only failure,
And repentance, and again
More failure.

In the beginning,
You may only suffer a scolding,
Perhaps the odd filling,
Or a particularly talkative hygienist,
But over time, your unworthiness
Becomes manifest in your mouth.

You can lie to a priest,
Your boss, your spouse, your lover’s spouse.
Your dentist alone sees all.
All the polishing and drilling,
Or even debridement
Are not sufficient.  And try as I might
I can never measure up to
His most perfect oral care plan.