Surgery of the Absurd

This entry is part 6 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


The clinic wasn’t everything I imagined. The nurse was male & unattractive, the blood & stool samples were anything but fresh, & the surgeon wore coat & tails like an orchestra conductor & bounded from room to room, wielding the scalpel like a baton: one moment kettle drums, the next a tenor clarinet. And we who had thought of our bodies as oases of silence wondered about the anesthesiologist, who’d been missing any trace of an eyebrow. Had he been born that way, incapable of registering surprise? Or perhaps he’d had some facelift of the brow, an elective procedure like the ones we were in for, unsatisfied until we can restore that smoothness of features that once distinguished us, before our parents met, before we descended from our tall trees & joined them down here among these clamorous dead.

Prompted by an email discussion with some blogger friends about an essay by Peter Singer (whom I loathe), “Should This Be the Last Generation?

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6 Replies to “Surgery of the Absurd”

  1. Wow! This was good! I work in a hospital. I especially love the last part: “before we descended from our tall trees & joined them down here among these clamorous dead.” I love the way Dave’s poems always slam me with the last line!

    spelling on anaesthetologist, should it be “anesthesiologist?”

    1. Oh yeah, good catch on “anesthesiologist”! I don’t know where I get the idea that I can dispense with spell check when I’m in a hurry. Thanks, and I’m glad to hear this resonated with you as a hospital worker.

  2. Hi! After I wrote that with the spelling correction, I thought maybe it’s a play on words, like a made up profession using the term “aesthetics,” referencing plastic surgery.

    The other part about the stool and blood samples was great as well. My nurse friends almost died with that one!

    Your Fungi poem still has my head spinning! It’s weird because I despise the taste of mushrooms, even though I am fascinated by them. Wouldn’t you know my Chinese doctor just prescribed for me 7 little packages to boil of herbs containing huge slices of giant Reishi (Ling Zhi) mushrooms! At least I can hold my nose, drink it down fast, then rinse my mouth with fresh water!

    1. No, not a play on words — would that I wre that clever. (I long ago gave up trying to be clever in poetry because so many others do it so much better. One has to play to one’s strengths.)

      “Stool sample” is just an inherently funny expression. I’d be very surprised if other poets haven’t played with that, too.

      Mushrooms are odd. For centuries we’ve thought of them as plants, but now they have their own kingdom and are recognized as being closer to Animalia. They was the poisonous ones dissolve the human liver is terrifying.

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