Why a doctor writes poetry
So I’m a 50 something wife, mum, and physician currently in general practice. I write because writing to me feels like living. I write when things are hard because strong emotions almost write themselves. I also write about the happy and astounding or inexplicable things that happen, otherwise I may forget. Some folks paint or sing, and I do those things too, but reading & writing come most naturally.
Medical practice nearly killed off these skills, because I mostly abbreviated and wrote in note form, not looking for beauty, rather, just a rapidly produced essential record. Amazingly, I’ve found that poetry and medical notes have brevity in common.
General (Family) practice, is about the art of healing but also of knowing humanity at its rawest; and most honest. I’ve also written recently for an anthology about the experiences around death–a collaboration between medics and the humanities in the Northern universities aimed at conversing about death and helping people with loss. Just sitting, listening to poets reading and performing brought a kind of responsive form of writing; creative juices seemed to flow in the sessions and gave us great pleasure.
I’m an extroverted writer who wants to share not just journal. Being part of a community that shares creativity is a part of flourishing. It’s what I believe I’m (we are) designed for and its taken many years on the planet before I’ve gotten it, but that is a story for another day…
Angels and Geriatrics
Look, look, over there
Night nurse Stockton switches on her pen torch
Had she heard a voice?
Stunned, she stops, frozen in her tracks
In the brilliant light of her recently acquired battery-powered pen torch was
The normally silent Norma
Whose label was ‘aphasic’
‘Angels!’ She repeats
Voice as clear as crystal
Enunciating the two syllables
In a beautifully lilting northern accent
The voice says again
Dispelling any doubt in Stockton’s mind
That she’s hearing things
For it’s clearly audible
The light emerging from sisters office
Throws Sister Stockton’s long shadow over Ward G1
The pen-torch lights up Norma
Shines into Norma’s wide eyes
And reflects red pupils, like a cat’s
This could not be
It was an impossibility
but night nurse Stockton finally overcomes the shock
She places one foot in front of the other
In the direction of Norma’s pointing finger
It’s directing her to Miss Chalmer’s bed
She knees beside the bed
‘Miss Chalmers,’ she whispers, but Miss Chalmer’s doesn’t move
Occasionally loud, jovial Miss Chalmers doesn’t budge
Full of life Miss Chalmers
The youngest of the elderlies
So she shakes her by the shoulders
and shouts a little louder
She’s not worried about raising the deaf
She shines the pen torch into open eyes
with fixed dilated pupils
There’s not a flicker of recognition
She could still make out the laughter lines
The faint smile on the lips
She notes all of this
While taking a radial pulse- absent
She feels for a carotid pulse- also absent
Bending closer still, she listens for breath sounds
The stillness is piercing
There is no soft snoring
Not a thing indicating life
For Miss Chalmers is not deaf
© Annie Forester, August 5, 2019
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