Words as camouflage

Sometimes we get bamboozled by the speaker’s choice of words. Obfuscation does not make matters plain, for instance. Ineffability is hard to describe, and here is a poem that describes a situation that many of us have experienced with those revered members of the medical profession.

Consent to Orchidectomy by P.W. Bridgman
Just as a razor blade can be concealed
in some poor kid’s Hallowe’en apple,
just as a darning needle can lurk
in a Hallowe’en pear,
so, too, something unpleasant hangs back today
in M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.R.C.S.C.’s mealy mouth.
Something unpleasant hangs back
in the surgeon’s mouth today,
like a fatty morsel of yesterday’s braised lamb special at
that has become trapped between two molars
and is beginning to stink.
The masked medic’s word-pistol has,
through culpable inadvertence,
remained securely holstered until the last minute.
The patient is laid out on a gurney, parked and idling
outside the O.R. He is prone, gowned, shaved, shorn,
partially informed and scared.
And now, he feels the word-pistol (a word-pistil), cold
against his temple.
“Here, you need to sign this,” says the surgeon,
his face concealed by his surgical outlaw’s mask.
What is it?
“A consent form.”
I’ve already signed a consent form.
“That was for the exploratory.”
“This is in case we find something
during the exploratory.”
There are three pages here.
“it’s mostly boilerplate. You sign on the last page.”
What’s an orchidectomy?
“We need your permission to take one
or both of them if the growth is obviously malignant.”
You’re telling me this now?
“Come on. You’d prefer we leave them in?”
I just didn’t … I thought maybe there were other …
Why is it called an orchidectomy?
“For god’s … i haven’t got time for this.”
The annealed, reusable, slender
stainless handle of the scalpel,
sheathed and innocuous in the
shiny green plant casing of the
word stem.
The disposable, high-carbon scalpel blade
of the pretty word nestles, barely seen,
within the soft, purple cluster of its
benign petals.
Would you please give me just a couple of minutes
With the form? I just need to …
“Alright, alright.”
The surgeon retreats. A long minute passes.
Then another.
He keeps his distance. For now.
Huddles with the nurses.
They speak softly together.
The patient tries to think.
Finally the surgeon’s exasperation gets the better of him.
looking over at the gurney, still idling outside the O.R.,
he sees nothing happening,
nothing, and exclaims softly:
“Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle!”
The patient hears him.
He finds the signature line
on page three and signs
in a clear, confident and legible hand:
“Jesus H. Christ”
Then he calls out:
Okay, I’ve signed it.
M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.R.C.S.C. returns to the
side of the gurney, whisks the form out of the
patient’s hand and tosses it onto a nearby counter.
“Alright. We’re good to go.”
Someone pushes a button and, with a quiet whine,
the stainless double doors to the O.R. slowly begin to
open outward.
“it’s show time,” says the surgeon.
All scrubbed now, he gives his patient a big, friendly wink,
just so it’s clear that he’s over it—that he has moved on.
The surgeon gives his patient a forgiving wink,
just so it’s clear that he bears no hard feelings toward him,
even though it took him so goddamned long to sign the form.
Just so it’s perfectly clear that he bears no hard feelings
toward him
for holding up the show.


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