This is the second of two poems I wrote about being a patient at a breast clinic, which was an experience that threw all the routine questions, tests and conversations I’d been part of many times before – as a doctor – into a new light.
Mercy Clinic II
She releases you from the clamp
and guides you to the screen.
So quick you say and already?
There is your breast in black and white,
the mesh of fat and glands, ducts and vessels.
He comes up behind you and pauses.
These are your veins says the doctor,
this is your tissue, no calcifications
there. You nod in agreement, compliant, smiling as you wait
for him to say what he really means – no knives
and herbs, no breakfasts of berries, no faith,
no new lexicon or words for mortality and God and you realise
neither of you know what he means at all.
There are women who know, women who have been here
standing as you are, doctor and patient
in front of the lightbox, confronted
with something in the white tangle,
something caught on an inward breath.
In the photographic darkness he clears his throat.
He’s going tell you the next step.
You stand in front of him without a bra.
– Angela Andrews
PhD candidate in Creative Writing, International Institute in Modern Letters, Victoria University. I have previously worked as a doctor.