To: South Florida's Digestive CARE™ Gastroenterology Group
Re: Your Contest for Best New Poem About Colonoscopies
At the risk of sounding pompous, I find the very idea of this contest professionally disrespectful, given my two primary fields of specialization: poetry and human excretory functions.
I assume that you are unfamiliar with my oeuvre, otherwise you would have simply given me my free colonoscopy or mailed me the $500 winner's check, as a sort of Irving G. Thalberg lifetime achievement award.
In the meantime:
The Glove Song of J. Alfred Pooprock, Gastroenterologist
With profuse apologies to T.S. Eliot (whose name is an anagram for "toilets").
Let us go then, you and I,
When the time is nigh, and thigh is spread from thigh
And the patient's etherized upon a table.
Let us enter deftly through his seat
(Swift, and yet discreet)
And snake our way along that shadowed, half-deserted street
Where every fetid crypt and cavern beckons like a wicked, saucy trollop
Hiding in her folds the grisly gift of ulcer, wen or polyp,
Streets that wind like a tedious argument of intestinal distress —
Oh, do not ask what's in there —
Follow me — I've done that, been there.
In the room the women cannot "go";
They come to me to ease their pelvic woe.
First, there is time, and there is time,
Time enough for fifty years to pass
Time for borborygmus and for gas,
Time for lovely necks and hands to coarsen just a trace
Before they're told to come to me.
There is time for taking tea, for worried talk of friends and kin and others taken dead,
Taken slow, taken from below
And soon — the early evening light's just so,
Just so, upon her graceful, well-aged cheek,
Is it not time, my longtime patient asks, for a pre-emptive peek?
Is it not time at last for you, my friend — she smooths her skirt —
To wield in me your magic fiber-optic tool?
I wipe my glasses on my shirt. Does one return a flirt with wit?
It's trifle late for you to think of fiber — that's my jest,
But this I leave unsaid; sometimes it's best
To leave forward things unsaid, lest you play the Fool,
One must never play the fool nor make the jest nor take the chance that one might
I grow old, I grow old . . .
I have measured my existence, fold by fold.
Inch by Sigmoid inch, seeking cure for blockage, blood and cramps,
The young among them sometimes call me Gramps.
(Oh, how I wish they would not call me Gramps.)
So, dispensing the necessary ointment
I bid her return, with a proper appointment,
And she arrives spot on three,
(Punctual as she is wont to be)
Exchanging pleasantries, quick I give her sleep.
And then, professional, detached, possessing self-possession for which I'm famed among my Fellows
I activate the bellows to fill her up with
And then perform the needed task,
Unmatched in my detachment, after which she is dispatched
To the room where, like all the others,
She awakens to her farts,
And then, gathering up her gloves and bag, departs.
I grow old, I grow old.
It is on to other patients, other years,
My penmanship precise, my diary a list of humble fears,
Punctuated with a simple mark —
The colon: giving pause, and a promise of a drama yet to come
Which does not come.
I think it will not come for me.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can chat with him online at noon Tuesdays at www.washingtonpost.com.