The Medical Student
Paul went into doctoring
dogging his sister
who had just become a G.P.
It was an immature thing to do, but then
the clever ones always became
doctors, lawyers or vets.
Then his sister got pregnant and
left home to live with this man.
Suddenly, he felt insecure –
foetal, almost –
as if he had been born again.
19 May 1979
Paul was the boy next door when I was growing up. We were the same age and went to school together but we were never exactly friends. Odd that. Last I heard he was studying to become a doctor. He was certainly clever enough but I’ve no idea what happened to him after I left school; he could be dead for all I know. He had an older sister who did indeed fall pregnant and left home to live with “some man” but we didn’t see much of her after that. In Scotland in the early seventies that was still something frowned upon and there was “talk” among the neighbours. I don’t think she was a doctor. I expect I made that up. I do remember she was very tall. Her brother wasn’t. He was shorter than me and I wasn’t anything more than your average height.
Paul may have been gay. Another source of shame for the family. In the seventies in Scotland no one was gay. I say “may” because I never knew for sure but there was “talk”. In the seventies there was a lot of “talk”; it was all we could afford. My mother said she once saw Paul sitting on the door step with a roller in his hair. Well that was it as far as she was concerned. At school he used to pal around with the vet’s boy and they got slagged because everyone got slagged for something.—it was what we did—but, as far as I know, there was never any proof. Maybe they’re still together. Maybe they’re married. Stranger things have happened.
So there are autobiographical elements in this poem but it’s still mostly fiction. It’s been published twice but I have no record of what magazines took it. It was the third doctor poem—after ‘The Venereologist’ (#485) and ‘The Pathologist’ (#495). No idea why I started writing them but they dried up after this one.