Poem of the Week: The Pediatrician Retires by Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds


For my female friends – the new moms and the mothers who are watching their children grow up, get married, and move out.  The cycle of life.

The Pediatrician Retires

This is the archway where I stood, next to the
panel of frosted glass, when they told me
there was a chance it could be epilepsy, and
almost before my heart sank
I felt a fresh layer of something fold
over my will and wrap it, in an instant,
as if the body takes care of the parent
who takes care of the child. This is the door
we came through each week while the symptoms slow
faded. That is the fruit-scale where she
weighed him, and his arms flew to the sides
in an infant Moro. And there are the chairs
where one sits with the infectious ones,
the three-year-olds calmly struggling for air, not
listless or scared, steady workers,
pulling breath through the constricted passage,
Yes, she says, it’s bronchial pneumonia
and asthma, the same as last month
, the parent’s
heart suddenly stronger, like a muscle
the weight-lifter has worked. There is the room
where she took his blood and he watched the vial fill, he went
greener, and greener, and fainted, and she said,
Next time don’t be brave, next time
And here is the chair where I sat and she
said If the nerve is dead, he will lose only
partial use of his hand, and it’s
the left hand — he’s right-handed, isn’t he?

the girding, the triple binding of the heart.
This is the room where I sat, worried,
and opened the magazine, and saw
the war in Asia, a very young soldier
hanged by the neck — still a boy, almost,
not so much older than the oldest children
in the waiting room. Suddenly its walls seemed
not quite real, as if we all
were in some large place together.
This is where I learned what I know,
the body university —
at graduation, we would cry, and throw
our celing-at-four-a.m. hats high in the air,
but I think that until the end of our life we are here.

Categories: Poems

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