Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Old Doctor- by E Sprague

In the morning when he comes

Through the back doors of the second floor

The clerks and nurses know it's five.

He has been on time for fifty years

With the same gravitas, the nods.

The courtly acknowledgments of the faces he knows.

His patients are along these halls.

Old ladies who put on their lipstick when he comes

Then ask their nurses "" How old do you think he is?'

Older than he was. Much older.

For with every step he shakes.

Hesitates in places where his feet

Should have memories of the mornings he has walked.

He drops his head to hear-

Can't remember what he has said.

Orders things that we cannot

In good faith subject his patients to.

We wait instead the extra hour.

Until his younger partners come behind.

Scan his orders and rescind

The antique drugs and surveys he has planned.

"He's got to be eighty, if he's a day",

Our nursing supervisor says.

And youth is all around him as he walks-

Young nurses with their diamonds.

Interns who don't know his name or care.

He greets them anyway, as if they ought to know

From the lecture halls and buildings named for him.

"He should take the hint and go ", I've heard whispered.

"That's what they mean when they give the bricks your name".

"He'll die if he retires",

Our nursing supervisor says.

And when I see him now I wonder

If he would be grateful to die at his desk.

Or never to awaken

On that morning when it comes

To the whispers of his colleagues.

To the ominous phones.

Our nursing supervisor says

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