Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hello, Doctor

Hello, Doctor.
Welcome.

What a relief to see your bag.
No, not your tiresome shirts and socks
and your paperback novels;
I mean your black bag, filled with the shining apparatus of life.

Follow me up the stairs, if you would be so kind.
Do you like the dark oak?
We find it somber, like a casket.

This is why we need you so desperately, Doctor.
We have nearly given in.
So used, are we, to the predations and the despair,
That we women wear black, even at Easter time,
and the men drink, and are sick on the front lawn.

I apologize, Doctor.
You've only just arrived, and I haven't asked you about your trip.
Did you have a nice seat on the train?
Were there blankets for the chill, 
and windows you could slide closed against the smoke of the engine?
Were there porters and cooks,
solicitous conductors?
A woman across the aisle, saying her rosary and weeping?
Monsters and archangels in your fitful dreams, 
shooting it out like they do in the flickers?

I'm teasing, Doctor.
Forgive me for my familiarity.
Forgive me for trampling upon your necessary reserve.
Do you know why I was the one chosen to meet you?
It is because I am the sanest one here.
I am the limb that can, perhaps, be saved above the knee.
I have a nice singing voice,
but can no longer afford the risk to indulge it.

Are you good with severe injuries, Doctor?
You're not just some kindly old hand-holder, are you?
Here, one has to have eyes in the back of one's head.
We form fierce attachments all in a single afternoon;
a glance becomes a kiss becomes a fevered coming together,
and all before the dinner bell.

Don't look so disapproving, Doctor.
In this place, life isn't a game of whist in the stuffy parlor.
We must rip at it, and at each other, as one would a carcass,
or we starve,
gnawing on fear as if it were a rib.

Have you seen our Wolf yet, Doctor?
Were you uneasy, sitting on the box seat on the way in?
As a physician, you know how the organs and sinews are knit together...
did a tremor run through yours, like doomed babies holding each other?
Let me tell you about our Wolf.
After you've unpacked and taken tea,
I'll take you to the graveyard,
where the earth is always freshly turned.

Our Wolf is large, the same off-white as the doilies on the table downstairs.
The hired man we keep insists that there are no wolves here,
the last one having been shot years ago.
He swears it was a bear, or a cougar,
that gave him that ugly scar across his face.
He admits he didn't really see it, though, Doctor,
and that was when he could still see, at all.
Now he sits polishing the silver, like an Irish servant girl,
fuming under his breath.

I saw our Wolf myself, Doctor.
I was out gathering tomatoes from our vines,
just feet from the main house,
when there he was, standing as still as January, 
staring at me from next to the smokehouse.
Something in me shriveled, like a frost-struck bloom,
and I thought, Cook will have to improvise her sauce tonight.
The fresh red pickings rolled out of my apron and onto the ground;
so many drops of blood.

It let me walk away, Doctor.
I've been distracted and unpredictable since.
Some wolves eat the organs first, did you know that, Doctor?
The heart, the liver, what have you.
Tell me, what is it, in them, that makes us animate?
Are we just some accident of chemistry, when we hope, dream,
fall in love?
Are we nothing but green vines with red eyes,
dumbly waiting?

Once again, I apologize, Doctor.
You're tired and want to unpack.
Will you think of your wife and children,
or does your head fill like a well bucket with the stuff of achievement,
overflowing?

Come down to dinner when you're ready.
We eat on the veranda,
because we have to keep the big table clear
to lay the injured on.
After dinner, relax a while, enjoy a cigar, read your journals.
Then, take a walk in the evening air, just at sunset.
Watch for our Wolf, though,
and I'll watch for you, from behind the curtain.

Goodbye, Doctor.
I meant, for now, of course,
but I wouldn't unpack everything, if I were you.
Don't tax yourself the way our previous doctor did.
I don't think he really understood the things that come upon us here, 
sudden and hard,
and always from an oblique angle.
Rest now, Doctor.
I'll let everyone know you've arrived,
except for our Wolf
who already knows.
__________

A little over a year ago, I was walking to the grocery store on a Sunday morning, along a street devoted to small independent businesses, which were all closed. There was no one around. I heard a strange sound and looked up from my thoughts. Across the street and ahead of me a little ways, was a closed gas station, and standing next to the dumpster was a large off-white animal, clearly wild, vocalizing again and again. It wasn't a dog. Its fur was matted, and though it looked well fed, it had "wild" all over it. There are no wolves here, but it looked like one. What it had to have been is a very large coyote. It scared me. I was all alone, and there was nothing between me and this animal. But it seemed to be intent on something inside the dumpster. It stopped to give me a stare, then let me walk away, my heart pounding. The way it kept calling was eerie. I've never seen anything more remarkable than a poodle or a stray cat, any time before or since, and I've walked there for years.

for Susan's "Hello and Goodbye" prompt at Real Toads.

23 comments:

Susan said...

A tale for the vaults, as slow and seductive as The movement of Cocteau's Beauty but without the hope.

This is my favorite part:
"Don't look so disapproving, Doctor.
In this place, life isn't a game of whist in the stuffy parlor.
We must rip at it, and at each other, as one would a carcass,
or we starve,
gnawing on fear as if it were a rib."

"Hello, Doctor" is a master work, and an amazing response to today's prompt. Thank you!

Mary said...

This captivated me and chilled me! A visit to remember!

hedgewitch said...

Combing through the thick luxuriant wolf-fur here for symbols and image is a job for someone more intelligent and feeling than I, but I am speechless at some of the twists and turns in this, the slow unraveling of sanity itself and the kinked yarn being recycled into something more delicate, if more fragile. Which is more a servant of life, the Doctor, with his formal armor of training and science, or the wildly vulnerable victim who is spared to return to the garden, even at the cost of forever being marked. So many outstanding similes--the doomed babies, the Irish servant girl, the stillness of January and the vines with eyes--just a stellar effort Shay, where every word and phrase matters, and the length serves the subject on a silver bullet, rather than platter.

Kerry O'Connor said...

You are a master at dramatic monologue, which reveals more about the speaker than the one being spoken to. For me this ranks with some of the best I've read from the likes of Browning. The sinister undertone, the sense that the listener is being led inexorably to some undisclosed doom. There may be a wolf outside, but what lurks inside the sub-conscious scares me a lot more.

Shawna said...

You have entranced me with this one.

"Forgive me for my familiarity.
Forgive me for trampling upon your necessary reserve.
Do you know why I was the one chosen to meet you?
It is because I am the sanest one here.
I am the limb that can, perhaps, be saved above the knee."

"Here, one has to have eyes in the back of one's head.
We form fierce attachments all in a single afternoon;
a glance becomes a kiss becomes a fevered coming together,
and all before the dinner bell."

"We must rip at it, and at each other, as one would a carcass,
or we starve"

"After you've unpacked and taken tea,
I'll take you to the graveyard,
where the earth is always freshly turned."

"It let me walk away, Doctor.
I've been distracted and unpredictable since.
Some wolves eat the organs first, did you know that, Doctor?"

"Are we just some accident of chemistry, when we hope, dream,
fall in love?
Are we nothing but green vines with red eyes,
dumbly waiting?"

"I don't think he really understood the things that come upon us here,
sudden and hard,
and always from an oblique angle."

"except for our Wolf
who already knows"

Whew. What an ending. I think I might be shivering. But when one is, one rarely knows.

Cloudia said...

Your imagination and vocab thrill me. Whist! Imagine!


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Wow, this grabs the reader by the throat. I held my breath through the entire poem. The narrator's voice is written to perfection, as always.

I especially love your note about your encounter. Poor guy was likely hungry and smelling what was in the dumpster. So cool that he looked at you, and let you go by.

Kay L. Davies said...

The first few lines didn't prepare me at all for what was to come (because I started reading without really looking at the photo).
"No, not your tiresome shirts and socks and your paperback novels" made me laugh because it seemed so YOU.
Even seeing "predations and despair" didn't stop me from smiling at "we women wear black, even at Easter time, and the men drink, and are sick on the front lawn" or at the chit-chat tone of the questions about the train, and "I'm teasing, Doctor" made me smile even more.
From "severe injuries" onward, however, there was little at which to smile, and "doomed babies holding each other" was positively eerie.
You never cease to amaze me, Shay. Another bravura performance! Much applause!
K

Emma Major said...

wow wow wow,that's a masterpiece

Marian said...

fascinating.
i found myself face-to-face up close with a moose once. unbelievable... like, it actually felt unreal, as your words here suggest as well.

TALON said...

I'm so glad the animal didn't decide to cause you any trouble. The howling would be unnerving to say the least! But what he/she inspired? Magical, Shay!

Helen said...

Your piece is complex, eerie, surreal .. schizophrenic. And quite fascinating.

HermanTurnip said...

"standing as still as January"

I could hug you for this line alone.

It's always interesting to know the origins of stories. Funny how the mind can chew on something that happened years ago, using it as fodder, then suddenly spit out a creative work of art.

Margaret said...

I laughed at so many lines, loved the twists to this eery little piece. The seriousness right in the middle "Tell me, what is it, in them, that makes us animate? Are we just some accident of chemistry, when we hope, dream, fall in love?"

I can't go highlighting all the humor, all the splendid descriptions, suffice it to say I LOVED it!

Paul said...

And the poor Doctor didn't get a word in edgewise... Wonderful monologue!

Susie Clevenger said...

Your imagination is boundless. The woman will not let the doctor speak. Makes me wonder if it was a doctor or simply a repairman who became the object of her imagination.

sharplittlepencil.com said...

This monologue is at once entrancing, disturbing, and filled with imagery. The "Doctor" in question probably won't stick around.

How you took your true-life story of seeing the coyote and transmuting it into this brilliant write is amazing. Keep letting your mind run amok, Shay, because your brain is fertile ground for astonishing creativity. I cannot tell you how much I admire your work here. Peace, Amy
PS Sorry this comes late, but I had a "beer and bitch" session after rehearsal. Wild!

Marcoantonio Arellano said...

What is so attractive and inspiring about your writing and the journey you take us on is not only your talent, this is understood, but the inspirational responses you extract from your colleagues. This is a stand alone talent.

Gracias, as always, for sharing with us your art.

Mama Zen said...

Pulling hair . . . breaking my pencils . . . FUCK me, this is good! I'm not going to start quoting lines, because I won't be able to stop. Well, just one:

"I am the limb that can, perhaps, be saved above the knee."

Damn, I wish that I could write like that.

razzamadazzle said...

You've woven that experience into a fascinating tale. It sounds very much like the huge coyote I encountered next to my goats earlier in the month. For some reason, I was completely at peace with such a huge predatory beast. It was completely amazing that she stayed and let me photograph her.

Carol Steel said...

Damn it, that's fine work! Chilling and delicious. I love the lines:
We've nearly given in.
So used, are we, to the predations and despair.
We must rip at it, and at each other, as one would a carcass, or we starve gnawing on fear as if it were a rib.
Our wolf is large, the same off-white as the doilies on the table downstairs.
...understood the things that came upon us here, sudden and hard.

I love this, love it even as I'm turning green.

Sara said...

You tell such wonderfully rich and scary poetry tales.

I imagine sitting on the hard ground by a fire pit on a dark night listening to you scare the living daylights out of me, while making me giggle at the same time.

What a gift you have...have I said this before? Well, if so it deserves repeating.

I'm very glad the coyote knew better than to mess with you:~)

Poet Laundry said...

The way you tell this, so matter of fact, is perfect. I'm convinced you have more than one brain. Amazing.