‘Poetry can capture the ambiguities and pain of clinical practice as well as its passion and delight. Poetry is perhaps the cleverest acknowledgement that the world is an instrument of healing’
Howard F Stein
‘Being a trans disciplinary scholar is both a blessing and a curse. I find that I and my ideas often do not belong where I seek to articulate them’
Howard F Stein
Appointment at the Doctor’s
Howard F. Stein
She tries to hold her life together
With baling wire and duct tape.
Sometimes it stays, other times
It unravels and breaks apart.
She and her mother—a grocery store
Cashier and a housekeeper—
Are the sole providers.
They can’t afford a car,
And get around town by asking
Relatives for rides and taking the city bus.
It is a blustery winter day;
Her youngest of three kids
Is sick with high fever, cough,
Aches, kept her up all night.
She called the doctor’s office
In early morning and was worked in
Their schedule today. Her mom
Stayed home and watched
The two other kids. She bundled
Up her little son and walked
To the first bus stop. They waited.
The bus was late—like it was sometimes
Early, you could never count
On the schedule. Then there was
The transfer, and waiting for
The second bus. At last they walked
From the bus stop to the doctor’s
Office, more than an hour late
For their appointment. The receptionist
Scolded her for being late; so did
The nurse after her. They called her
Difficult, unreliable, inconsiderate.
Didn’t she understand what a schedule is for?
Someone in the back of the clinic
—a doctor, a nurse?—
Overheard the clamor, and said,
“Let them stay. We’ll work them in.
You never know what some people
Have to go through to get here.”
Howard F. Stein describes himself as a medical, applied, psycho-analytical and organisational anthropologist and consultant. He is the Emeritus Professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Services Center.
He is also a poet who has written 8 books of poetry and another 27 books on academic and clinical practice and social and cultural issues.
In 2006 he was nominated for Oklahoma Poet Laureate and is the Poet of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology.
Stein uses poetry to teach family medicine interns and residents and clinical practioners in the belief that poetry can humanise technologically oriented and productivity driven medical practioners and offer empathy and insight into their relationship with patients.
A collection of his books available through Amazon is here.
Some of his poetry is here.