Sunday poem: Doctor*

Magical tree - heal thyself. Sap dripping from a wound, cause/s unknown.

 When the phone rings in the night to tell him someone’s died

not unexpectedly, and without giving trouble,

he thinks as he lies down of the hurt red setter

he had to shoot, what, forty years ago? His heart flinches again.


His house flowering quietly around him

in this contented suburb, he lies awake until

the trees step out of the shadows. Fifty.

He wonders what he did for the rest of that day

and why he’s never seen, these forty years,

those trees with the ripped and shaggy bark

and under it, the silky heifer skin. That sky

so clean and glittering

it makes you want to weep.


*This poem first appeared in Divan 2 1999



5 thoughts on “Sunday poem: Doctor*

  1. What a wonderful poem! And especially meaningful to me. My mother would have hated to think her dying caused anybody any trouble. It’s the opposite of the Dylan Thomas poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ – or is it?

    1. Thanks Dorothy. It’s an old poem as you can see by its original publication date. A great thing about a blog is that these things can get a second life. It’s interesting that you focus on the “without giving trouble” aspect of it, moved by your own experience. For me it’s more about the way death, which in the doctor’s case is just part of his everyday work, can suddenly make you aware of the course of your own life, and of experiences which, for whatever reason, have pierced you in such a way that they always stay with you.

    1. Or I suppose the fact that shooting the dog has turned out to be a presage of the life he’s had, dealing in life and death every day and learning to suppress the emotions associated with it.

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