Thursday, April 2, 2015

Poetics of Doctor Fell and a Community Health Centre

The poem about Dr. Fell is easy to memorize. I’ve seen it in a couple of science fiction short stories, with the main character speculating the poem was composed by an undergraduate at Edinburg medical school, a young man who just did not like his teacher.

As for community health clinics, they were on my mind last Friday morning as I sat with writers in a nice old sandstone school. Named after Princess Alexandra, it has tin ceilings in the upstairs classrooms. Located a block from Fort Calgary, the former school had housed a thriving community health clinic back when I first came to the city. Not now.

We were gathered to do Free Fall.

The “prompt” had been, “Your test results are normal.” So we all began scribbling fast in our notebooks with no editing, no revising, no perfectionism or second thoughts—such a glorious free fall. So liberating for anyone tending to be uptight. Few of us at Free fall write every day, so at least our Friday mornings, ten 'till noon, give us our one sure weekly chance to write, and to see other writers.

I was moved to write humorously, having already covered the topic seriously in an essay archived January 2013.

Here’s Friday’s piece; I invite you to imagine me reading it aloud, as comically as I can:

God I hate the so-called community health centre. Yes, it’s home sweet home to the doctors, with homey white walls—but the rest of us don’t like white. Give us wallpaper, or painted murals, or wavy aboriginal lines, give us shelves of brick-a-back and family portraits in eager sepia tones, just don’t give us the horrors of hospital white.

And I’ll never forget my first time, when I was nervous, and had a social disease to boot. The dam washroom was locked! And guarded by a human pitbull in uniform across a vast forbidding floor. So I had to make my way down a hall, and another hall, and misstep or two, before I found some old battle axe, wearing a stupid nurse hat. “Can I help you?”
“No, I can find the way myself, but I desperately need a key!” Somehow I managed to keep my sanity, but not my cool, when she asked, “The key to what?”

And back down three hallways—no, two— past the husband of Ms. Battleaxe, in his Gestapo uniform, and into the washroom. Did I make it on time? Let’s just say I’m still bitter.

Picture this: A community health clinic, with Gestapo. Now, if you wear the uniform, and you call yourself humble, low paid, harmless, and not an authority figure, well guess what? If you take your humble authority into the local skid row bar no one is going to buy you a beer.

You may be wondering if there is truly a C in community. Not if doctor Mengele has any say. Heaven forbid the board of directors should be over 50% members of the community. What if the community votes to paint the dam walls? Can’t have that. And what if the community pushes to do like that hospital beside Paddington station, in London? At Saint Mary’s you can have your AIDS test, and get your results back, both in the same afternoon. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes here in the land of the free.

Back I went, for the third time, because I have no fixed mailing address. Dr. Mengele looked at me. “Your test results,” he said, “came back normal.”

Here’s the poem:

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why, I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

Sean Crawford
~Reminder: My serious version is archived in January 3013

~Here’s a link to what some interesting people say about the poem.

~The current Oprah Magazine, for April, where Oprah has a long handled yellow paint roller, has an article on Why Poetry Matters, page 86, as part of the monthly Reading Room section.

~We at Free Fall have a blog where we post our stuff without fixing it up, except for spelling and punctuation, so it appears just like we wrote it and read aloud on Friday. Not fancy, not lengthy, but very human. Here's the link.

~Last week I forgot to say my last 25-blog summary was a dense heavy post in November of 2014, Measuring So People Matter.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah that is true that poems of Dr. Fell are easy to memorize because it is easy to get memorize and understand..!!