Stories worth telling

doctorshistoriansThe complete absence of medical doctors at their patients’ funerals is shocking, obvious, and upsetting. Yet, no one seems to care.

Their task – their one task – is to preserve life. And they fail. Every time. I know, I know… they don’t see it this way. They do keep people alive longer than they’d live if it wasn’t for their life-saving work (never mind that this longer life is lived in the waiting room before another doctor’s appointment). And this explanation satisfies everyone it seems. (If I had a 100% failure rate, I’d come up with a good explanation too.)

The other, obvious, god-like, grand and detached profession which contributes to life is called ‘the historian.’ Not just history, as in what’s happened, but the profession assigning meaning to all the crap that’s happened as if it had to happen – that’s the task of the historian.

Doctors and historians – can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

Humanized Anonymity

It has come to my attention
that doctors have a 100% failure rate,
if life is what they preserve,
and I’ve never seen one attend a funeral
unless it’s theirs, of course,
so I propose they be required to show
last respects for all their patients,
by law they must be there, embarrassing
as it will be, and apologize
along with everyone else saying ‘I’m sorry’
in the line winding around
the casket, and they will be one of the
only ones who truly mean it;

while I’m at it, I propose that
historians be forced to stand in public
at regular intervals, reciting
the names and a brief paragraph about
the millions and millions
they gladly ignore or anonymously label
when writing their big books
of sweeping, majestic generalizations
while a mother’s baby failed
to thrive and died in her arms yesterday,
a stupid boy, so unloved,
thought nothing of shooting a neighbor
so he might belong to a family
he’d never had before, or the paranoid,
wrinkled woman named Lucy

who spied out of her drawn drapes
at her new neighbors because
they didn’t belong in her neighborhood;

with funerals well attended
and public recitations going on daily,
we’ll be quite entertained but
probably not concern ourselves as we
go about ignoring important things
until we see our doctors dressed to mourn
or hear our name recited; and,
doctors would be so busy with funerals
that they’ll be unable to save lives,
and the writing of history books would
suddenly include observations
of the practice of public recitations and
how this is just a concession
to a silly and meaningless public clamor,
for meaning for humanized anonymity
that they’re happy to supply.


Stories Worth Telling

There was only one Charlemagne,
and thankfully so; one Genghis Khan,
Alexander the Great, and one wishes for
at least another Sojourner Truth, George
Washington, or Eleanor Roosevelt,
 on and on my books tell me about
this great thing 
called history and how
billions of lives 
twist and turn, begin
and end, are 
rich and poor as the earth’s axis
is made to turn on the life of just one,
usually male, usually violent with
mothers’ babies, usually loved
and hated simultaneously, and usually
infatuated with himself,
while we try kindness and hope,
recite ‘there but for the grace of God’
as consolation or cautionary tale,
dream and cry our way through days
all to be forgotten – dust to dust
in the unhistorical metamorphosis,
and the best one can hope is to be
a victim of a great man it seems,
or his see him once, or better yet
to be unseen by god-makers – historians
who don’t know our names and study
so as to not care or have to plainly say
we just don’t matter, he was
a perverse soul, another was brave
with words, a child afraid, and another
never knowing love or kindness
except for a sibling uniquely private,
one generous even in her poverty,
another loved her baby who failed
to thrive through no fault of hers
and lived with the loving guilt of a wish
for just one life among the billions;
all ignored, and necessarily so, for
there isn’t room on my bookshelf
for every story worth telling.

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