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Friday, November 28, 2014

The Nurses at Ellis

You’re Getting Verse Dept.: My mother saved the letters I sent her, a packet that was returned to me after her death several years ago. I haven’t been courageous enough to go through them – I wrote them in my teens and 20s, when my prose was far more pretentious than it is now – but the following piece of doggerel came to hand when I was searching my files for something else. I wrote it while a patient at Schenectady’s Ellis Hospital in 1985, recovering from a dislocated hip (the other driver ran a stop sign). I was surrounded by motorcycle-accident victims, many of whom were impressively loud in their complaints. And I suffered a heroic case of constipation. I knew that my mom, who was an RN, would appreciate my views on the matter.


The nurses at Ellis can tell you that hell is
To find you’re assigned to D-3,
Where patients in traction demand interaction
From feeding to helping them pee.

Though splinted and plastered they 
    shout like a bastard
For linens and blankets and towels,
And, though they’ve progressed, you will find them obsessed
(Let’s try to be nice) with their bowels.

Oh, Milk of Magnesia will certainly please ya
When five days have passed without crapping;
Then, under your sheet, some poor nurse gets a treat:
Your package came while you were napping.

And so let us sing to the bedpan, that thing
That conveniently kisses your haunches,
And the nurse, with a smile, will comfort you while
You prepare for the next of your launches.

And so let us moan in a miserable tone
As our bodies proceed on the mend:
It’s the doctor alone who will deal with the bone;
It’s the nurse who must deal with the end!

– 9 May 1985

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