The Black Chair by Jackie Kay

by R.C.

Now I am inside the room

After all the dreaded waiting;

A woman is kinder, more gentle.

So you have me open my mouth;

I open it gladly for you.

Tiny mirrors, softly you tell

Your assistant the language of ivory:

My vowels, my consonants, my country.

It is all unfathomable to me

But it sounds beautiful, rhythmical.

I could be crumbling, spotted with decay;

Maybe need a filling, a cap, root canal.

My abscess is a mystery, a swollen book.

You tuck me up and put me to sleep.

My soft swollen gums are stroked, all red,

My tiny dark holes prodded

By one of your strange foreign instruments.

They lie at my side now gleaming

Sharp as a family, smiling in a silver album.

I am laid back on your director’s chair –

The pink glass of champagne at my side.

Every so often I rise for a moment

Like a woman rising from a dream of the dead

Like a woman standing up on a horse

To drink and swirl and spit and watch

My own frothy blood spin and disappear.

You say good, good, you’re doing fine,

Again, again, till your voice is a love song

And every cavity an excuse for meeting;

Floss is the long length of string

That keeps us parted. My mouth is parted.

You are in it with your white gloved hands

I have not eaten garlic for weeks.

But you don’t need to pull any teeth

Alas, no molars to come out in your hands

No long roots, no spongey bits of gum.

We won’t go that far. No. It’s surface stuff,

Really. Not nearly as deep as you or I could go.

You’ll polish them. You’ll give the odd amalgam.

You’ll x-ray. You’ll show me the photo.

I’ll look at my own teeth on the white screen

They tell me nothing about myself.

My teeth, speechless.

Rootless pearls, anonymous white things.

I need you to tell me about myself.

Will the gaps widen with the years?

Do you know the day my grandmother died was hot, baking?

Can you tell I like sex from the back row?

I’d like it now, on this black chair that you move

Up or down, bringing me back to life

Telling me in a cheerful voice. I’m done.

– Jackie Kay, Not For The Academy: Lesbian Poets