speaking up

A friend says he does whatever he wants. He refuses to answer questions about how he makes his money. He doesn’t care if this annoys people. I suspect he may enjoy it.

I have one of those public jobs. Well, had. I have now been disabled from Family Medicine for a year. My lungs are much better than a year ago but they are not normal. And I have now seen 17 specialists and 3 primary care doctors since 2012. The consensus is “We don’t know.” Though many specialists are not willing to say that. What they say instead is, MY testing is NORMAL, go to someone else. My lungs are not normal, but I am on my fourth pulmonologist. I saw a cardiologist this year and the first thing he says is, “It’s your lungs, not your heart.” Well, yeah, I know that.

I miss my patients, but there is something freeing about not working. Ok, more money would be nice, but I am doing ok. Meanwhile, I am thinking about what to do now. I can write full time. Write, make music, travel (on a budget) and sing. And speak up.

Doctors have interesting portrayals on television. We went from Dr. Kildare to Dr. House, working our way through the shows with an emergency room and medical residents. ER drove me nuts. No one EVER dictated a chart so at the end of each show I hyperventilated at the hours of paperwork/computer/dictating they had left. House interests me because it’s always the thing that the patient is hiding or lying about that is the key. “Go search his apartment.” says House. I have figured out cases by getting permission to call family or a group home. More than once.

But a physician is a public figure. I had been here for less than a year when a woman comes up to me in the grocery store and says “What are my lab results?” I look at her blankly. I can’t remember if I really did the snappy comeback that comes to mind: “Take off your clothes and I will see if I remember.” I respond politely and she says, “Oh. I should call the office, right?” “Yes, I try to leave the work there,” I say. If a particularly difficult person was bearing down on me, I would whisper “cry” to my kids. That worked. They would act out on cue and I would be the harassed mother. The person would back off.

I am in a small town. We have three grocery stores. I see patients everywhere, now that it has been 22 years. If I remember every detail, that means they are or were really sick. And we have the layers of relationships: someone might have kids the same age or work with boats or be in chorus with me. Once I take my daughter to a party. The mom introduces me to two other mothers. “She’s my doctor,” says the introducing mom. “Well, me too.” says the second. “And me,” says the third. We all laugh.

Once I am visiting my brother outlaw’s bicycle shop. He has a customer. The customer starts talking to me too. Brother outlaw says, “Do you two know each other?” The customer eyes me. I have my neutral doc face on. “She’s seen me NAKED!” says the customer and I howl with laughter. What a great reply. And my brother outlaw gets it.

Docs have to pay attention to HIPAA. When three women say that I am their doctor, I reply, “Yeah and I left my brain at work, so I can’t remember a thing.” Those three were healthy, so I really do not remember labs or the results of a pap smear. Once I was in cut off shorts and waved at an older woman who was at the ophthalmologist’s. She sniffs and looks away. I get the giggles: I think she did not recognize me. My town is only 10,000 people, so after 22 years I have taken care of many of them. Though sometimes people thank me for taking care of their mother, and after it sounds unfamiliar I ask if they mean Dr. Parkman? Oh. Yes. People get me mixed up with two other small Caucasian woman doctors.

I started the “outfits inappropriate for work” category last year when I was still very sick and short of breath and on oxygen. I did not go out much, partly to avoid covid. My pneumonia was something other than covid and it was my fourth pneumonia and I should not need oxygen. Now I’ve had mild covid and the oxygen is only part time. I sang at my son’s wedding, off oxygen, so I can sing off oxygen for a short time. I danced off oxygen too and did get QUITE short of breath. Since I am no longer a public figure, I can speak out and speak up more. I am thinking about that, particularly with the recent Supreme Court news. I do not agree with what they seem to be planning.

talking about silence

we are talking about silence
yours deliberate
you don’t want people to know
how you make your money

you are angry, I notice
at how people treat you
you are a self made man
with a lot of money

I don’t much care
about your money
happy for you
& etc

I am more interested in silence
I go silent in Kindergarten
because I am too weird
have no tv
and want to sing

I do not bother to lie
because people don’t listen anyhow
and they don’t believe me

I listen, you say
I read everything you send me

That is not enough, I think
I don’t say it
I think about saying it
I don’t say it

I stopped sending you my poems
months ago
when you got angry
I asked if you would respond
something
a positive
a negative
even just “Read it.”
I don’t understand
why you got angry
and I am not scared
so much as surprised

I guess you brook no criticism
ever
I wonder why you must be perfect
seems tiring to me
at any rate
I am not sending you any poems
any more
since then

you could read my blog
I post some there
selected ones
unexceptional
less personal
though I suppose you could still
be angry

you say you know I am angry
when I go silent

I go silent, thinking about that

you are right that there is anger there in the room with us
you sense it
it is yours, not mine
the bear chained in the dungeon
roaring

poor bear
I send it love
and it is crying
bitter tears
wet and cold
in a pool of tears
I can’t free it
only you can

for a moment you are aware
that I am silent about my poems
then you slam the dungeon door again
and talk about guns and science
and what you will do next

and what you will do next
with your bear
and without me

___________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: distorted.

dream about privilege, access, and water

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: dream.

I dream in technicolor with smells, sensations, sounds, all senses. So much so that sometimes I worry about what is happening in the dream and what I should do about it. Then I realize it is a dream.

Other times I know right away that it’s a dream. This one I knew was a dream and it’s closely connected to our reality.

This dream is from August 2018.

I am in a library. There is an archive. I am not allowed in the archive.

There is a man. He listens to me sometimes, but mostly he prefers that I listen to him. He listens less and less as time goes on. He is interested in certain topics, but he likes to do the talking. He doesn’t like or agree with my opinions and prefers that I am silent.

A woman arrives. She is very powerful. Dressed in white, robes, goddess like. She is as tall as the man. They talk and he goes into the archives with her. I am jealous and resigned. Not sexually, but I am just resigned to males coming first, more of them have access to the archives, they expect the attention first, they are rewarded for speaking up where I would be punished for the same behavior. I am sick of it.

I have a question for the woman. I wait. I am sitting on a tall stool with a long desk. There are two chairs to my left, empty, and people in the chairs to my right. There is a carved wooden screen walling the other side of the desk off: on the other side are the archives.

I have water. The water is in a bowl. It is to drink and is nourishing and refreshing and it is beautiful too, with herbs and an island of moss in the center. I have drunk enough, and wash my hands in the remaining water.

They come out of the archive. The woman sits by me and the man next to her. I ask my question when there is an opening. She is interested and will take me into the archives. The man is not interested in my questions, as usual, and he leaves. The woman asks for some of the water. I explain that I have washed my hands in it. More people are coming to talk to her. She pours some into her bowl. I am afraid she will be distracted by the people and drink it. I go to get her clean water. I need a pitcher. There is a wall of glass front cupboards with many sizes and shapes of glasses. I get down a large one, but it is very ornate and delicate. I want a plain pitcher but I also want to bring her the water right away. I hesitate, looking for something large and plain.

I wake up.




crossroads

Regardless of how the vote goes, I will keep speaking up.

It is so painful to have woman after woman saying, “I have stories too.”

And to the “nice” men who say, “I can’t believe that sort of thing. I can’t read about it. It hurts too much.” YOU are silencing too. YOU are part of the problem. As long as YOU refuse to listen, refuse to speak up, refuse to read about it: YOU PRETEND TO YOURSELF THAT IT IS NOT HAPPENING TO YOUR WIFE, YOUR SISTER, YOUR MOTHER, YOUR DAUGHTER. YOU PRETEND THAT IT ONLY HAPPENS TO “THOSE” WOMEN, THAT THEY ARE FEW, THAT IF THEY HAD TAKEN PRECAUTIONS IT WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED, THAT YOU ARE PROTECTING “YOUR” WOMEN.

Speak up, “nice” men. Are you ASKING the women in your life? Or are you silencing them?

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Joanne Little.

 

the deer remind me

the deer remind me

the deer are not a metaphor
nor simile
they don’t mean anything
they are in town
because we don’t shoot them
outside the town limits
they are shy

here they cross at the crosswalks
and teach their young
about cars and trucks

the deer remind me

each time I see them
they have no voice
I remember
we think of bambi, gentle
and tragedy of a mother’s death

are deer gentle?
they are strong
fast, we are told hooves can kick
sharp and wound

I sing to deer
when I come across them
almost daily

they look at me
singing, watch me

the deer want to live
as I do too

the deer are not a metaphor
and yet they remind me
to be gentle
and that I am strong
and fleet
and can run when I have to

even when I do not have a voice

relegated

you’ve relegated me to one small box

a place in your life, Sunday morning
not every Sunday, but some Sundays
to work together on the tree house
and talk a little

well, you talk. I am supposed to listen
and give another perspective. I don’t get to
pick the topic.

You don’t answer emails: not the poems,
not the essays. I am not your Facebook friend,
we don’t have dinner like civilized friends
you would not mention my birthday
nor will you take me out on your boat.
Holidays are on ignore. You even agreed
to watch my cat and left her, after one day.

you’ve relegated me to one small box

I climb out and wander the streets, howling

I am unedited, unwashed, unpredictable, unrelegated

howling about you and your treatment of me

Full lunar eclipse

Long long ago, when the universe was forming, the Moon fell in love with the Sun.

The Moon was afraid that the Sun wouldn’t see her, because the Sun was so bright. Slowly she pulled herself together. After careful thought, she chose to orbit the Earth.

Now it is another full lunar eclipse. Her face reflects the Sun’s glory back to him. She slides behind the Earth in a three hour version of her usual cycle, from full to only her own light back to full.

“Where are you, Moon?” bellows the Sun. He hates these quick disappearances. He yells and bellows and tantrums. But the Moon knows that he will forget quickly and that he has not bothered to learn and predict her cycles. He doesn’t like to be reminded of loss and endings and death.

The Sun likes it best when he has her full glory, face reflected back to him. He doesn’t see her light. Each month she moves from reflecting his light towards her quiet time when it is only her light that is visible from Earth. She needs this time to remember that she has her own light, even if it is a shadow compared with the sun.

“You should orbit me!” says the Sun, but the Moon knows that if she orbited him she would be burned and barren and dead, no rest and no light of her own. One night a month the Moon remembers who she is and is alone. She lets her quiet darkness shine. The Earth whispers, “Why do you love the Sun so? Don’t cry, Sister.” The Earth’s salt water tides move like tears.

Sometimes the Moon longs for ending, but she remembers: all love, returned or not, is longing and praise for the Beloved. Maybe she will not be loved or seen as she longs to be in this life, but she too will return to the Beloved and be One. And after her time in the dark she slowly returns to reflecting the Sun.

And the Sun loves her in his way. He loves to watch his reflection grow on her face each month, preens in it, until she is full. He is more irritable in the second half, as she turns her face away again. She wishes that he would look past his own light and see her.

Now the little eclipse is ending and she is rapidly becoming full again. The Sun is cheering up.

“It’s silly of you to hide your face.” says the Sun, fondly.

The moon does not smile. The Sun sees his own smile reflected in her face.

 

I took the photo in 2009 at Joshua Tree.