Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Poem Starts with a Deep Breath

"Take a deep breath," my doctor said
in a strong Korean accent.
His stethoscope pressed cold against my chest.
In a frame on the wall, his medical license
butted up against a print
of the lovely Mona Lisa.
"Why is she smiling?" I asked.
"Why is who smiling?"
"The young woman in the painting," I said,
"on the wall behind your back."
"I can't stand that painting," he said.
"Everytime I walk into the room
it's as if she's smirking at me.
She's thinking, 'You call yourself a doctor?
You're just a quack."
"Well, are you?" I asked
as he looked into my ear
with a strange device.
"Well she sure thinks so," he said
in a brusque physician tone.
"She's the Mona Lisa. She must know."

From an examination room across the hall
I heard an old man scream.
The doctor tapped my kneecap
with a tiny rubber-tipped mallet.
"I don't think you're a quack," I said.
"I think you're very competent.
You did a great job on my ruptured spleen."
"Do you really think so?" he said.
"And remember that band saw accident last year?
I thought I'd never write again.
And here I am, on my third novel."
"You're very kind," my doctor said.
"I need more patients like you.
What color bandaid would you like?"
"I'll take green," I said.

"I want to prescribe some medication
for your invisible nose," he said.
"Whatever you think is best," I said,
although I'm okay with it, actually."
By the way," I said, as he wrote my prescription down,
"why don't you replace that painting
with something a little more uplifting?
Leda and the Swan, perhaps,
or maybe something by Warhol."
"I've considered that," he said.
"But at this point in my life
I just don't want to make big changes.
And besides," he said,
"Mona Lisa keeps me humble."

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