Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Real Life, Inc.

Beth and I were leaving the medical building over to the hospital and saw before us a car on the walkway up to the door. the car had to have driven up an unpaved embankment, an oddity. as we came close, a woman on the passenger side spoke to us. she wanted to know if this was the right entrance. I tried to explain that the proper entrance was below on the other side of the building, where there's a drive up entrance. she said that her husband had rushed off to the bathroom, he had a colostomy. he was 85. herself, she was there for tests. she has cancer. she started to get upset. why did he drive up the embankment, she asked. she needed a wheelchair to get about. this was the 3rd time the cancer had appeared. Beth calmed her by saying lymphoma can be beaten. the woman responded to the sympathy. we determined that I should fetch a wheelchair and the woman could get to the lower level via elevator. as I rushed off, I met the man coming back. I'd held the door for him when we were leaving. he'd found out where he was supposed to go. so they would drive down to the proper entrance. he was concerned about getting down the embankment, as there wasn't a lot of turn space and he was afraid he'd hit something. Beth and I coached him back and into the sharp turn so that he could drive down. as he was doing this a nurse rushed up to say that the particular lab may not be open and that they should go across the street to another building. a bit after that another nurse had something stupid to say to Beth to which Beth politely answered go away. it was all just heartless squawking for two overwhelmed and worried people. luckily Beth and I were able to help. I mean, better us than someone saying you can't park there. the relief they felt was palpable if perhaps only short-lived. when they finally drove off I had a burst of tears. imagine how scary their lives are. when you think of Western medicine, does sympathy or empathy come to mind? of course not. it's a machine that performs these medicinal services. assuming these services are efficacious--and it's a real debate how efficacious chemo, for instance, is--to what degree does the medical profession serve the emotional needs of the patient, and of the patient's loved ones? it's not just that you go thru these stressful procedures like chemo (the woman lamented that she'd be losing her hair again), but that you do so in such a heartless (that word again) environment. however nice drs, nurses and tech folk might be, you are still just one more item in a healthcare assembly line (let's don't even get into the matter of insurance). that couple was so defenseless. you wish there were children to help them in their need. now I have to bring this to writing and poetry. because you can think of writing, or art generally, as a luxury. in a world of these sadnesses, what does a POEM do? the simple answer is that it does what it can. we can honour a poem for being a thing, a human made thing, that reacquaints us with language's intensity. poems, and the their language, are relievingly real in that sense. we can see words presented as important virtues between and within us. isn't it tiresome to the point of something terribly worse to hear worry about ambitious poets, foetry, scene phonies, and all such minor human frailties? a view of poetry as something so gruel-like and dim, a joust of unevaluated responses. demeaning arguments of envy and powerless invective are just the lazy stink of poetry held too close to our natural weakness, without comprehension of the limits involved. part of me writes poems to be famous, to be loved, to be respected, to say something: of course I'm not perfect. I honour most, however, that part of me that doesn't hold those aspects so tightly, that finds a poem (mine or someone's), and respects its moment. simply so.
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