Connie Bensley

Losing a Crown in the National Portrait Gallery

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The cafe was full of connoisseurs

of the scones. As he bit into his flapjack

a sinister uncoupling took place

and he felt the crown of a tooth jerk free —

to be rescued behind a discreet paper napkin.

Now the geography of his mouth was

unfamiliar, harsh and sharp.

No wonder those Tudors in their portraits

kept their mouths shut. No white-clad guru

for them, injecting, probing, drilling and finally

murmuring: One more rinse for me please.

No, they had to make do with white paint,

and opium, and hiding unfortunate

swellings under a generous ruff.

But no more speculation, for it is

Friday afternoon, and he must hurry home

to find a weekend dentist, who will

lay him down and restore him — whatever the cost —

from a tight-lipped misanthrope

to a man who can smile and show his teeth

with the best of them.