There are a number of poems by Marianne Boruch that I have listed in my inspiration collection. ‘The Doctor’ is one of my favourites .
I like the practicality of this poem – how Boruch uses a common event, a visit to the doctors, to write a poem. But it becomes much more that a visit to the doctor, it becomes an elegy to the body that wants ‘a simple quiet room’.
Boruch compares the body to a city in the poem, and in this visit to the doctor how it has become ‘a city suddenly/ built so badly, so far/ from the sea’.
She honours the doctor,’She might know/ the language’ and also the mysterious nature of medicine with the stethoscope and glove and ‘a tiny/ light for those dizzying/ channels in the head’.
More poems and information about Marianne Boruch can be found at Poetry Foundation.
The Doctor by Marianne Boruch
I read bodies, she says. So I
show her what I was
given, trusted with, wake
up to, tell her where
and what, which arm or leg, which
ache near dawn,
the flash at the back of the skull,
a narrowing in muscle
or bone or nerve
that makes it a city suddenly
built so badly, so far
from the sea, first a rumour
then after, such photos
to carry about, tiresome
drone of travel there repeated
chilling to theme, news
that comes back as I try
to remember, to tell her
whatever. And she reads
with stethoscope and glove, a tiny
light for those dizzying
channels in the head, looking up
or into, locking my joints then
unlocking them slowly
or quick: look left – good – look
right, lie down, breathe
shallow, now deep. To say
Braille would be putting it all
into dark. But what goes on
is mindless, brilliant
pulse where wrist
is most bluish, the skin a veil,
bones the thinnest shuttle
Her questions: how long? or
when-I-press-this and do you feel it
dull or sharp? and can she
believe me or this country
she’s never seen, never been to?
Maybe it’s familiar, this place.
She might know
the language, she might,
of its slow, well-meaning
citizens, most of whom don’t want
to come out of their houses, ever.
Really, a simple quiet room
would do. And please,
a small to medium bowl