Dentist’s Chair, Circa 1961

I was to be sedated due to overwhelming anxiety and a horrific gag reflex. A pill, an injection into my right arm, and inhaled gas. Seemed like a lot for a skinny eleven-year-old, yet I gulped the gas in fear. The dentist tilted the chair until I was lying flat. Within minutes, I was asleep. Slumbering in a soporific dream. But though asleep, I was able to observe, kind of like when you suddenly die and you’re floating toward the white light but can see everything happening to your body as the doctor tries to restart your heart. It was that vivid and clear. Like sitting in the front row of a movie theater. Anyway, I could hear the dentist telling me everything would be fine, to relax, that he was going to remove those “dirty little cavities.” I heard the click of the door lock. He turned on a radio, loud. Then, unexpectedly, he unbuttoned my trousers and pulled them to my knees. Then my underwear. He placed a white towel on my lap and a wet washcloth on his instrument table. He touched my penis, barehanded. I felt warm and flushed, my heart slapping hard in my chest. He moved his fingers faster and faster. Then I felt a sudden shiver of my body, almost like a seizure, but a good seizure, then pure exhaustion.

I awoke to the sound of Frank Sinatra, or maybe it was Dean Martin, I don’t remember. The dentist snorted a laugh and handed me a mirror to look at my teeth. Two gray fillings sat planted in the back. He told me I was good to go, but to brush daily, and see him in six months. My mouth was still numb, but I tried to thank him: Thankf youff. He winked. I slid from the chair, stumbled a bit, and opened the door to the foyer where my grandmother waited. Another young boy, seated with his mother, fidgeted nervously.

As we drove home, I noticed a damp spot on my pants, near the bottom of my zipper. I turned toward the car window so my grandmother couldn’t see and touched it with my finger. It was a texture I recognized from the times I secreted a Playboy to the bathroom and locked the door. I rolled the window down and rested my chin. The storefronts passed and the wind tousled my hair.


I’ve never been able to love. I’ve tried but failed, miserably. Over and over. I’ve struggled to understand why, scouring the years of my life for an answer, yet finding none. However, I’ve noticed that when love begins to emerge from the solace of aloneness, I recoil, the festering memory of the dentist’s chair rising like shards of glass tumbling in a broken heart. It’s a gaping wound that can’t be stitched. So now, in the closing years of life, I’ve resigned that finding love is at hopeless end, and my remaining days a fated time of lonely solitude.


Paul Rousseau

Semi-retired physician and writer, published in medical journals and a smattering of literary journals, including The Healing Muse, Blood and Thunder, Intima. A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Months To Years, Cleaning up Glitter, Prometheus Dreaming, Hektoen, Hospital Drive, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Tendon, and others. Currently working on a collection of essays. Lives in Charleston, SC, longs to return to the west. Lover of dogs.

Jeremiah Gilbert

Okavango Delta Reflection

Okavango Delta Reflection


Jeremiah Gilbert

Jeremiah Gilbert is an award-winning photographer and avid traveler. He likes to travel light and shoot handheld. His travels have taken him to over eighty countries spread across five continents. His photography has been published internationally, in both digital and print publications, and has been exhibited worldwide. His hope is to inspire those who see his work to look more carefully at the world around them in order to discover beauty in unusual and unexpected places. He can be found on Instagram @jg_travels

Andy Posner

A More Perfect Union


When children by gunfire die,

When the dreamer and the warden clash,


When statues betray the artist, we say

This is not who we are.


Who are we?


I take my chisel to Plymouth Rock

But the rock gives no blood;


Our history is like that stone,

Heavier than its weight…


Stood at a dank underpass, I rattle

A tin cup, wave a sign that reads


This is not who we are—


I can grow rich here, devote my life

To the pursuit of happiness…


It is said that upon his murder, Lincoln belonged

To the ages: Why do we wait for blood?


We’ve planted great forests of headstones.

I wander their lush paths, the sanguine streams,


And amidst this grandeur, this horror,

I glimpse both what is and what could be.




What of the Future?


I’ve been hearing Save the Rainforest

Since I was small enough to sleep

In the safety of my parent’s bed

Or snuggled with stuffed animals—

Pandas, giraffes, monkeys, frogs;

Since I lived for lullabies and storytime;

Since the world was as small as a crib

And as big as my imagination;

Since a nightlight could douse fears

And a drop of Tylenol could erase pain;

Since adults could assure me

That all was well and would always be well.


Now I hear that 20% of the Amazon is lost,

That the remainder is on fire,

That a tipping point may soon be passed—

All life in peril.1


Now I have a beloved wife, toddler, dog—

Great plans for our lives.

Now my parents are older, frailer.

Now, at thirty-four, I have traveled enough of life

To know that adults have always betrayed their children,

That absent drastic change I, too, will betray my child,

And that without a future for him

There can be no real joy or pleasure in the present.


1 Fisher, Max. Aug 30, 2019. NY Times. ‘It’s Really Close’: How the Amazon Rainforest Could Self-Destruct <>


Andy Posner

Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.

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