Emily Bonner

ODONTOPHOBIA

I’m holding the hand of a man
who killed 25 people in Vietnam.
He said he could see the whites
of their eyes, and marked off
each kill on his helmet.

The syringe is scarier than anything
he saw in that jungle, he says. He squeezes
tighter, nearly melding my skin and the nitrile.
He’s screwing up his face, a face that saw
more of death than I ever will, because
of the whine of the drill. He says
it’s worse than listening to the screams
of children in a burning village.

In a plush chair, easy listening wafting
through the halls, paintings of ships,
awards and accolades, it’s worse
than the jungle. Like pulling teeth.

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Emily Bonner is a recent graduate of the MFA creative writing program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Her work has been featured in The Barely South Review and currently works as a dental assistant.