One of my patients died today.
Strapped to a table
it was an inglorious death,
not that I've seen one that wasn't.
I've heard of them,
and I've heard of heroes,
and I've heard that how we die
is a measure of how we've lived.
Or do we just seem smaller lying down?
29 June 1988
I can’t imagine being a surgeon. Well, of course, I can imagine it. I have a good imagination. We watch doctor shows all the time—we’ve always got one on the go—but I don’t really like the operations. If you do and you haven’t seen it then check out CR:IT:IC:AL. It only lasted one season and the drama side of the show is a bit dreary and it’s very British but if you want to see how they de-impale a guy off crane spikes then this is your kind of show. Me, not so much. Give me Scrubs any day.
As for this poem, this is me trying to write ‘Mr Bleaney’ again, the last sentence of which goes:
But if he stood and watched the frigid wind
Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed
Telling himself that this was home, and grinned,
And shivered, without shaking off the dread
That how we live measures our own nature,
And at his age having no more to show
Than one hired box should make him pretty sure
He warranted no better, I don't know.
I’ve no idea why this poem haunts me so. I’ve been reading it for over forty years and I’m happy to concede that it’s not Larkin’s finest but it’s a poem I’ve found impossible to shake. In 2010 I do finally get as close as I’m ever going to get to writing my own version. You can read it here. For the record it’s #1047.