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Ten Clinics

1.

Dad is angry

he yells and tells

me

how it is;

stridently informs me what is wrong with society and consequently, with me

We part,

having never met

2.

she told me what happened, years ago

Today the room smells thickly, and

potently,

of sweat;

fetid excretions of anxiety

she cries after the exam

(at first, I don’t notice, I’m busy charting)

I long to hold her and tell her, I know,

my love,

I know

3.

chronic abdominal pain deteriorating mental health substance use contraception pelvic exam poverty suspect abuse

fifteen minutes

medical student

at least the chest pressure is mine alone

4.

Abruptly, he turns to my resident, and tells him,

“she saved my life, you know”

Without thinking,

I place one hand on his shoulder

and the other on his wrist,

and leave them there,

for a moment,

feeling his body heat through my gloves

I look into his eyes, set in a face far older than its years, and

smile at him, forgetting that he can’t see it

behind my mask

“you know you did,” he says to me

5.

After-hours clinic

urgent CT scan ordered

await result

6.

my ear is hot; burning hot

the phone,

crushing it to my skull for endless, terrible minutes

I know what I must do

It will be a long time, before I stop hearing the weeping of a desolate soul

No please,

please don’t,

please don’t

I call 911 anyway

my chest sucks inward from the pressure

7.

He masks his terror with rage,

furious that I, alone, cannot fix him,

Desperately seeking to be cured,

he berates me

for failing to come up with a suitable solution

He is dying, he is angry, and I am not helping him;

at least we agree on that

8.

I call her and notice that I have

involuntarily spread my hands wide, palms up;

they are empty

Fortunately, she cannot see me

through the phone-line

So, I conjure,

making plans, knowing that none of us can put her back together

we can only hold her pieces, and cherish them as best we can,

Little treasures

9.

I return from a long consult to see the

highlighted

CT report

from after-hours

sitting on my keyboard

I pick up the phone

Yes, he is alone

(oh, that makes it harder)

Yes, he is sitting down

The whole time, I imagine him

has he perched on a chair in the front hall?

reached the couch? his bed?

is he hunched forward with his head in his hands?

does he have a dog to pat?

are there tears in his eyes?

I promise to call him again next week

He thanks me; it sounds so wrong

10.

The mammogram is abnormal and a

biopsy is required

The phone receiver in its cradle,

connected to the keypad by its forever-tangled cord

We stare at each other, the touch-tone

phone, and I

I call her on speaker

and spin the hope she deserves

From my empty spool

Dr. Meghan Wilson is a family physician in Kingston, Ontario.

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