This artery of cars I’m in
skims past its vein, each blood drop
we are, visibly wobbly: only a broken
white line between
hundreds of possible head-ons.

I would pull over, disappear
by lying down in that flowered
field—if not for its hidden bees.

The fear of pain is the leash
with which the body
minds its wandering.

From the parking lot I can smell
the dentist’s office—a drill squeals riii
in each door’s hinge. I resist writhing
on the waiting room chair as the dark
worms of cavities eat into my teeth.

I so hate and need cleaning.
I am acutely alive, so
often complaining.

What do I know of pain?
A bus’s accidental handrail
and crude back operations
cast Frida Kahlo in
a wretched corrective posture.
She painted her veins open.

I’m relatively safe in my envelope
of coagulating blood, which protects
well enough against syringes
and the mis-tugged
tartar hook that would otherwise
start the spilling out
that will leave me, eventually, to myself.

My immaculate teeth and I take a wrong
turn on the way back from the bathroom,
and see a hole in a Mexican man’s gums
I could put my pinkie through.
My unease swerves into his—
BAM! I am so grateful,
I might as well have seen an angel!


W. Vandoren Wheeler
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