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>Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

April 29, 2010

>It feels like we’ve been trapped in Three Stooges medical care week here around non-necromancy manor. On Sunday, Walker was in a rough soccer game and ended up taking a dive over a player from the opposing team, landing on his left arm. He could tell something was wrong immediately, so we left the game and took him forty minutes south to the urgent care. We’d had a bad experience with our older daughter’s broken arms at the local hospital ER, so urgent care seemed to be the right choice on a Sunday afternoon. He had x-rays and the radiologist brought Walker a splint. Then the doctor came in and said it was just a sprain but the splint was a good idea for a week.

Monday night, about 8:30 pm, the urgent care called and said that another doctor had looked at the x-rays and the arm was fractured. So Tuesday I took Walker out of school and we went down there to get a bigger splint. There are two orthopedists in town, and I couldn’t get him in to see either one until Thursday morning, when Ron ended up having to take him (out of school again) because I was giving an exam in Westerville. The orthopedist looked at his x-rays and said that both bones (radius and ulna) had buckle fractures. He put Walker in a cast for six weeks.

I like the way one of my friends summed up this whole experience, using a word from The Meaning of Liff:
“I might be tempted to unleash a pabbay on the entire medical community involved if I were you.”

But at this point, there’s not much to do but laugh. Most of the pain is over, and all that’s left is to see the cast get dirty and smelly as only a 14-year-old boy–who is allowed to play soccer with it on–can get it.

Somehow, the whole experience made me think of a parody poem that ends with a doctor. The original poem is by William Carlos Williams who, like many poets, had a day job; he was a doctor. It’s a very famous poem about the momentary pleasures of little things:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

And this is the parody I’ve been thinking of throughout each new episode of the fractured boy saga–it’s by Kenneth Koch and entitled Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams:

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy, and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

Maybe I remembered it because of the “forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.” But it has cheered me up. And that’s one thing poetry is for.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2010 1:31 am

    >For years I had the William Carlos Williams poem up on my filing cabinet, immediately next to a copy of Erica Gambino's response:This Is Just to SayFOR WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMSBy Erica-Lynn GambinoI have justasked you toget out of myapartmenteven thoughyou neverthoughtI wouldForgive meyou weredrivingme insane.

  2. April 30, 2010 1:45 am

    >Karen, I've never read that one–it does capture something, doesn't it?!

  3. April 30, 2010 2:14 am

    >GREAT poem and parody. I can see why they cheer you up.

  4. April 30, 2010 2:20 am

    >I love the original and like Karen had a copy (not displayed, but pasted in a book cover) for a long time. The parodies are even better.

  5. April 30, 2010 12:49 pm

    >Hehe that was fun and I like the response Karen posted as well.

  6. April 30, 2010 12:50 pm

    >Love them both. I seem to remember a parody contest (perhaps Harriet did it on her blog?) of that WCW poem. I bet HE wouldn't leave a nasty note in your comments. Nevermind that he's dead and all.

  7. April 30, 2010 1:30 pm

    >FreshHell, when zombie poets start leaving nasty notes (or requests for "brains") in the comments, I'll start hitting the absinthe pretty hard.

  8. April 30, 2010 3:07 pm

    >I think I've seen more parodies of that plum poem than any other poem, ever. That was the first WCW poem I read, and it put me off him for life – I hate it when people eat food that I was saving for a treat!

  9. April 30, 2010 3:55 pm

    >You sent me this poem in response to my blogging about this a couple of years ago. I received a boatload of hilarious parodies in my comments. You can read them here: is actually one of my most googled blog posts.

  10. April 30, 2010 7:03 pm

    >Harriet, I remember that, now. Shows where my mind has been this week.

  11. April 30, 2010 7:04 pm

    >Jenny, Have you ever read Fat is a Feminist Issue? I thought of it when you said you hated it when people ate food you were saving; she talks about that.

  12. April 30, 2010 7:17 pm

    >I've always enjoyed that poem and it's parodies. 🙂 Thanks for helping me remember it!And I hope things stay on the calm front in the next few weeks. 🙂

  13. April 30, 2010 7:38 pm

    >I can't read that poem without hearing it in Garrison Keillor's voice.The words "Urgent Care Clinic on a Sunday afternoon," are so pregnant with meaning as to qualify as a poem, for those who have been to one. Shudder. I'm glad your boy is plastered up and on the mend.

  14. May 1, 2010 9:43 pm

    >Love the WCW poem and its parody. You must have been teaching at Otterbein, no? We lived in Westerville when we lived in Columbus years ago.

  15. May 2, 2010 3:04 pm

    >Kristen, yes, my commuter college is Otterbein. I've loved it there, but one of the changes coming up is that it–like OSU–is changing to two 15-week semesters (from three 10-week quarters).

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