Urgent care

Reading The Galloping Hour: French Poems by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Patricio Ferrari and Forrest Gander — stuff she wrote in Paris, in between the searing micropoems in Arbol de Diana that made her reputation. And it’s curious how much more verbose she was in French. Choosing to record her thoughts in a language not native to her strikes me as incredibly gutsy. That doesn’t always make the results as readable as her Spanish translations or condensations might have been (the project was incomplete when she died). But without all the blank space of her micropoetry, her genius still dazzles but in almost an oppressive way—there’s such a feeling of claustrophobia and desperation.

*

Speaking of claustrophobia and desperation, I spent an interesting hour at an urgent care center in Altoona today getting my earwax situation taken care of. I’m someone who rarely interacts with the medical system, so I’ve been struck by just how many times I have had to tell my story to one medical professional after another, always starting with my date of birth, each time getting a bit more expansive as the situation seems to demand.

The narrative is bigger than me now; I am merely its avatar. I am currently sitting alone in a small, pale-green room with an enormous framed photo of a flower on the wall opposite. It has a certain watchfulness about it. The air conditioning is a little too cold but it keeps me awake.

*

Another nurse; another recitation of the story. I am to be irrigated. The nurse agrees it’s much too cold. I get a hospital gown to wrap around my bare arms. A nap may be in order.

*

The irrigation worked. I can hear again! The nurse who flushed it out said it looked as if my home treatments had helped soften things up, so probably had I kept it up for another week, I would’ve saved myself a drive to Altoona, and I’m guessing a small mountain of paperwork in the mail. Thanks, Obama! The important thing is to protect the profits of the insurance racket.

But it gives me a personally satisfying conclusion to my narrative, which now no longer feels suspect. I should’ve grabbed a photo of one of the plugs of earwax, but it all happened too quickly.

And now a new narrative intrudes: just as the doctor enters, a phone call from Mom: a violent thunderstorm took out our electricity. I’m sorry to have missed it.

*

Just two close lightning strikes, but one of them hit the transformer. That’s life on a mountaintop for you. The repair guy was here in less than an hour, as opposed to the usual, more widespread outages in which we often wait half a day or more (because towns and villages get restored first). So Mom and I felt figuratively as well as literally empowered. And the repairman seemed to enjoy the drive up the hollow.

So that makes two easy, satisfying conclusions to dire-sounding situations. Meanwhile it’s crushingly hot and humid and I have not had my walk.

*

My medical history is on file as of today with two dates: my birth in 1966, and today’s visit. I have a BMI, blood pressure, respiratory rate, etc. — all the vital signs of a modern medical subject. I logged into my Secure Patient Portal to read today’s Clinical Summary and was delighted by this:

CHIEF COMPLAINT AND REASON FOR VISIT NARRATIVE

Patient Reports: Hearing loss [Onset: 7 Day(s); Location: Reports R > L, Bilateral; Free text: OTC treatment not helping; Quality: Reports Muffled sounds, Silence; Timing: Reports Constant; Context: Reports Hx of similar Sx’s in past, Hx of cerumen impaction].

*

A sunset walk. A few freshly downed trees to scramble through. Fewer midges and mosquitoes, despite the increasing humidity.

Listening to a wood thrush song battle at close range through recently irrigated ears is a great pleasure. Nuances of tone I’d been missing. The physical feeling of wind in my ear hairs at the same time, like a simultaneous translation.

The thrushes end as abruptly as they began and go their separate ways. Black cherries—small, stony fruits—are falling in the breeze, but it took me a little while to work that out. They sound like random footfalls in the darkening woods.

*

There are easily three times more fireflies tonight than there were last weekend. Descending through the meadow, I feel like I’m walking through someone else’s acid trip.

I’ve never understood poets who need to go to cities to feel energized or inspired. I have lived in Osaka, Taipei, and London, and they were each fascinating in their way, but Plummer’s Hollow is where I feel most often moved to write. Having frequent social interactions with lots of my fellow human beings was vital in my twenties and a bit into my thirties, but one never quite gets over habits of isolation bred during one’s formative years. And I used to take such long walks then, with zero preparation or planning.

*

Urgent Care

wind in my ears as if
a wood thrush could whisper

i hear someone taking
improbably far-apart steps

in the sound of black cherry trees
putting their pieces into play

those who like certainty
have the solace of mathematics

those who love the wild
empty themselves

if my ears conspire
to keep me thick-headed

tonight their little begging bowls
have returned to primal condition

let me dream too
in surround-sound

not of waiting rooms but fireflies
on all sides flashing

and the tireless councils
of the crickets

One Reply to “Urgent care”

  1. Lovely poem.

    When I lived in America I used to have to go to the doctor’s once every couple/few years for the same treatment. Then I moved to Japan, where, as you will probably remember, although the doctors dutifully parrot the standard advice to never put anything in your ears, culturally the practice of ear-cleaning is pretty deeply ingrained. Anyway, I started physically cleaning my ears, and in the 25+ years since I have never once had to go to the doctor’s to have wax build-up removed. Go figure. YMMV.

    I do almost miss that amazing sound when the plugs were removed, like the whole world was inside a tin can.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.