Karen the Dental Hygienist Loves Trees

Karen the Dental Hygienist Loves Trees      by Jinny Batterson

(This poem was written soon after we moved to Cary, North Carolina, a “tree city” that, like many suburbs,  struggles to balance residential and commercial development with maintaining the natural environment.)

Went to get my teeth checked.
New town, new dentist, new office.
Still adapting to a shared-car family,
I rushed in on foot,
Slightly late, flustered, out of breath.
Calmed down. Filled out the paperwork.
Sat in the dental chair.
A plumpish woman with a slight
Carolina twang to her speech
Came in.

“Hi, I’m Karen. I’ll be cleaning your teeth.”

Between whirs of the polishing machine,
Scrapings of tartar,
Flossing of gaps between teeth,
She rambled out parts of her life story:

“I grew up around here.
I used to play in the woods
At my grandma’s farm.
It’s been sold now–a country club.
Most of the trees are gone.

I love trees.

When we moved to Texas a while back,
I insisted that the builder
Put a tree in our backyard–
Not a scrawny little sapling,
But a real tree,
Big enough to climb in.

I watered that tree every day,
All through a Dallas summer.
The builder swore it would never survive
The Texas heat, but it lived.
Back here, I have a whole yard full of trees.”

Released at last from the dental equipment,
I glance past her
To the trees framing the office windows.

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