The poem, ‘Oh, I Wish I’dLooked After Me Teeth’ is the most famous poem of Pam Ayres. It was voted as one of the top ten poems of the BBC poll called the‘Nation’s 100 Favourite Comic Poems’.
Stanza 1: The poem begins in first person. The poet persona says she wished she had looked after her teeth. If she had looked after them and not had all those toffees and sweet sticky things, there might not have been any danger lurking beneath the dental layers.
Stanza 2: The poet persona says here that she wishes she were more willing to give up gobstoppers and buy something else with her allowance then when she still had more teeth than filling. Now that her teeth are almost filled artificially, she realizes her mistake.
Stanza 3: Whenever the poet persona now thinks of all the lollies, liquorices, sherbet dabs and hard peanuts she was used to having in her childhood, her conscience is keenly pricked. Now that she knows the end result of all those transgressions, she feels guilty.
Stanza 4: In this stanza, the narrator admits that her mother always warned her about dental care. She remembers how her mother used to say that a tooth was like a friend, hence special care must be taken of them. But the narrator was young then, and careless. The toothbrush she used was so old that it had become hairless, that is, bristle-less. She hardly spent time on taking care of her teeth.
Stanza 5: She says that she wasn’t completely neglectful and that she did use toothpaste to brush her teeth every night. But she did not make the extra effort of properly cleaning out the spaces between two teeth. She hardly made use of varying methods of brushing or flossing. She admits that at that time, it didn’t seem worth the time and energy because according to her, as long as she could bite, her teeth were deemed fine.
Stanza 6: Here, she regretfully says that if she had known that she was paving the way for decay, cavities, false caps of teeth, or that she had to endure the pain of artificial fillings, injections and various drilling machines to cover up the cavities and/or replace the decayed parts, she would have thrown all her sherbet treats away.
Stanza 7: It is in this stanza that we get to know that the narrator was at the dentist’s while she was reminiscing about her childhood transgressions regarding her teeth. As she gazes up at the dentist’s nose, who was standing over her, she hears the whine of the drilling instrument he had in his hands. She was there to get the cavities in her molars filled. The dentist confirms that she needs two amalgam (fillings) to cover up the holes and spaces.
Stanza 8: As she sits there awaiting the drill, she remembers shamefully how she used to laugh at her mother’s false dentures and at the foam when she used to clean them. But now she regrets her youthful mistakes because it is her turn to sit, awaiting drills like awaiting judgment. She realizes that soon she too will need false dentures. The poem ends here on the same note it began, that she wished she had looked after her teeth.
Suggested Reading: Summary of Oh! I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth in Hindi
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