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Out of Place
Paul Hostovsky


When I see my dentist

in his baseball cap and sneakers

walking down the street like a regular guy

without a probe or excavator

or tiny round mirror in his hand,

no rubber gloves, no hygienist

sitting attentively across from him

anticipating his needs and my needs,

no tasteful prints on the wall,

no Muzak in the ceiling,

no adjustable overhead light--

just the sun shining down on both of us,

and him too far away for me to see

all the little unruly tongues

of his nose hairs sticking out--I donít

recognize him at first,

striding through the world all alone like that

as if he werenít my dentist, as if

he didnít belong in my dentistís office,

as if he had a life outside

my head. Thatís when he tilts his head

and looks at me askance as if

I were sitting there in his dentistís chair,

and then he gives me a smile that says

he not only recognizes me,

but he recognizes himself inside

my head, where Iíve been keeping him

prisoner. And he raises a deft hand

and lets himself out

with a wave.

From Is That What That Is(FutureCycle Press, 2017).
Used here with the author's permission.

Paul Hostovsky is the author of nine books of poetry, most recently, Is That What That Is (FutureCycle Press, 2017). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter and Braille instructor. Learn more about him at

Post New Comment:
This poem really has me thinking because it's so true. Great job.
Posted 07/04/2018 07:39 AM
Good one! Very clever imagery.
Posted 06/24/2018 09:54 PM
I've been on both ends of this one. Love it.
Posted 06/24/2018 08:05 PM
Lori Levy:
Love the humor and attention to detail in this poem.
Posted 06/24/2018 01:40 PM
Just the other day, my dentist approached me as I exited the Pinedale Aquatic Center, and I was pleased to recognize him and call him by name.
Posted 06/24/2018 11:11 AM
Well done. A slice of life that rings true for all of us
Posted 06/24/2018 09:52 AM
Sharon Waller Knutson:
Paul, I loved how you showed with description and put the reader in the narrator's shoes. I see my dentist across the street in baseball cap and sneakers and at first don't recognize him because I am in my head back at his office remembering him in rubber gloves probing around in my mouth hearing Muzak, gazing at paintings and a hygienist and it takes his wave of recognition to snap me out of it.
Posted 06/24/2018 09:45 AM
Gilbert Allen:
I'll remember this fine poem when I see my dentist tomorrow!
Posted 06/24/2018 08:56 AM
Absolutely perfect. I saw my cat's vet in the dress boutique and wanted to sneak behind onevofvthe racks. HAHAHAHA!
Posted 06/24/2018 08:12 AM
michael escoubas:
Near perfect representation of how things are! Have experienced this many times. Thank you Paul.
Posted 06/24/2018 07:09 AM
A good chuckles I felt this way meeting my doctor in the bus queue!
Posted 06/24/2018 05:18 AM

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