Doctor to Patient (on ornithology and the practice of medicine)

0
305

I wrote this poem after contemplating almost 20 years working as a doctor. It occurred to me how often my head had been noisy during consultations over that time and how often I had been grumpy or tired or worried about what to do next – or perhaps had simply not liked the patient I was talking to – and how often this had affected my consultations. I was also struck but how often the challenging patient had taught me something and how the practice of poetry had taught me to find the amazing in the ordinary. The poem is about all of that I suppose. Poetry has shown me that every patient brings something remarkable and delicate to the consultation and that it is part of my joy, and a help to them, if I can simply be still enough to find that. In many ways I think of it as a love poem to patients. I could never have written it 20 years ago.

 

Doctor to Patient (on ornithology and the practice of medicine).

 

You have brought me a bird.

 

I have seen this before.

 

When you say,

‘I am sore,’

 

I see a bird.

 

When you say,

‘I cannot breathe,’

 

I see a bird.

 

When you say,

‘I lie awake,’

 

I see a bird.

 

You have brought me a bird.

 

There is a bird

in the room.

 

Should I stand on the table?

Should I stand on the chair?

 

It is singing.

 

Listen, it is singing.

 

It is there, in the corner of your eye.

It is there, on your shoulder.

Here, in the pit of your stomach.

Now, between your legs.

 

Inside your rattle-cage,

 

when I press

my ear to it,

 

I hear a bird.

 

Behind your knee,

 

in the creep-

dark shade,

 

hops a bird.

 

And in your sorrow-joy,

 

tip-winged and

unbearable,

 

hangs a bird.

 

Give me your hand.

 

Here, it is in your hand.

 

It is breathing.

Listen, it is breathing.

 

Should I dance?

I should dance my old man’s dance.

 

You have brought me a bird.

 

How can this be?

 

You have brought me a bird.

 

 

– Glenn Colquhoun

Glenn is a GP working in a Youth Health Service in Horowhenua

SHARE
Previous articleBoy with a Runny Nose
Next articleCommitment