Jack Conway

Zen and the Art of Dental Hygiene

My father kept a monk in the house
all the time I was growing up.
He had a close shave in Burma
during the war and the monk saved his life.
His head was shaved and everyday
he wore the same orange robes.
“You’ll never get to Nirvana
wearing pajamas,” he told me.
Sometimes he strapped on a parachute
while burning incense and claimed
that his fall from grace would be a short one.
He was my father’s spiritual advisor
and a part-time dental assistant.
Most days he stayed locked away
in his room meditating
and trying to master the art of levitating.
“Gravity is a travesty,” he complained,
although he did maintain
that levitation was not a reliable
form of transportation.
As monks go, I reckon he was
someone to be reckoned with.
In a moment of blissful enlightenment
he proclaimed that refusing Novocain
was the only true way to
transcend dental medication.

Jack Conway’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Antioch Review, The Columbia Review, The Hiram Poetry Review, Rosebud, Light, Yankee, Rattle, Folger’s Shakespearean magazine and the Norton Anthology of Light Verse among others. He was nominated for a 2007 Pushcart Prize by the Poetry Midwest Journal, for his poem, “The Wound of Being Never Heals.” He teaches English at the University of Massachusetts and Bristol Community College. He is the author of six nonfiction books and one novel. His most recent book, The Cape Cod Canal: Breaking Through the Bared and Bended Arm, will be published the published this spring by History Press.