A poem for student days
Heal Me Doctor
Teaching rounds with Dr. Morgan
Back in med school
Began at six am.
I remember one morning
We circled the bed
Of an elderly woman,
And Dr. Morgan,
Who’d written the book on bedside manner,
Began the ritual, lightly:
Here we are, my dear,
The roosters again.
How’d you sleep?
And so forth.
From our necks,
We students imprinted the mood,
Goslings in short white coats
Behind Morgan’s wise gander.
He calls upon one of us now to demonstrate our skills,
And the one who steps forth.
Begins by palpating belly
In search of spleen and liver.
We watch as the woman’s skin
Gives like dough.
Then he helps her sit for auscultation,
Instructing how to breathe.
We watch him skip his new stethoscope’s
Silver bell down the cachectic back
Side to side,
Hopping over stegosaurus vertebrae.
Then after this, he lay her down
And listened to what her heart
All is going swimmingly
With this display of technique,
But for the fact that our friend
Had forgotten to place the ear pieces
Of his listening device
Where they might be of use
In his ears.
The laughter we could no longer suppress
Gave him pause,
The stethoscope wavering
Over the scar where some long dead surgeon
Had removed the patient’s left breast.
He straightened then and cleared his throat:
Mrs. Smith, would you mind if I listened to you again,
A different way now?
Even Dr. Morgan smiled.
She said it would be fine, adding:
I‘ve got nowhere to go but up.
She did not see him
Slip the prongs
Into his ears,
But smiled along
With our laughter,
As if floating on her back in a warm pool,