We are the dental nurses, our cardigans tulip red, our feet rubber soled, we are the foot soldiers, we wave to the bomber jets as they unleash their arsenal of bright apples, oranges, bananas and bottles of milk, we applaud the attack on Bertie Germ, small grinning figure in his black racing car, for we are the defenders, the hole drillers, the saviour of the nation’s teeth, beads of mercury roll in in our palm, we pat the flushed faces of young boys, we say to the girls, ‘open wide and it’ll soon be over,’ we are the poster girls of health, we climb on chairs, dust off shelves, we steam and clean, we are the freshest of soldiers, if anyone harbours doubts, we hand them a cotton wool fairy, if anyone screams our ears are thickly pale and silent, yes, we are the dental nurses, we march on the playground in our crisp white uniforms, our moon round faces straight ahead as apples come raining down.
Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer from Aotearoa, New Zealand. Recent work appears in New Flash Fiction Review, Blue Nib and Best Microfiction, 2020 (Pelekinesis).
Dental health posters referencing ‘Bertie the Germ’ issued by the New Zealand Department of Health, 1950s from Archive New Zealand (CC BY 2.0). (Click the image for an enlarged view.)