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Colonoscopy

Ron Charach
From:   Descant 79/80, reprinted in The Medical Post, 1994.


What could be cleaner or merrier than to sweep off
a dusting of snow on a crisp sunny day?
But this morning I visit The Rudd for routine colonoscopy.
Two days ago at the pharmacy I joked about my purchase:
two clear bottles of Citromag and three tins of egg-nog Ensure:
"I'm going to a really wild party!"
"Yeah, right!" laughed the pharmacist;
It won't be a picnic.

There is something cleansing
about volunteering. Something reassuring about knowing
exactly how much waste this body can contain.
And the brochure, praising courage, reassures:
the laxative is the worst part.

Unseemly, to talk about fires raging out of control
on an area no bigger than a quarter,
to draw more attention there than you have to.
But by the morning of the test I wonder
if I'll ever sit again —

Today I am to know myself
better; insights ten years of psychotherapy
can't provide.
To plumb the inner furrows and folds
in search of some polypy Jabberwock
to ensnare and burn away —

The clinic is a field of a room sectioned off
with plush furniture in themes of brown and off-white
on a carpet the color of toast.
A nurse in crisp white uniform
hands out the inevitable forms.
I write down practically nothing:
as a teen some "irritable bowel" (whatever that means),
but then add: Mother died of cancer of the coecum.
Dispassionate faces in the waiting room;
some have been through this many times.
At forty I'm here early, more imagining than ill,
but across from me sits a black-haired youth with a colitis look,
his face grey as ash, his mother wearing a worried look.

Yet I am chosen first,
and am soon up on a tilting table,
having decided to "pass" on the sedation
(because at three o'clock, I have patients of my own to see).
"That's my finger" says the good G.I.
calling to mind more than one off-colour joke,
and in an instant, he launches
five feet of limber, greased technology
as I try to relax and be a good sport.

(Two weeks earlier,
a friend of mine went
to have a hemorrhoid lanced:
benevolent Chinese specialist,
but in Hirohito glasses;
anaesthetic injected: ouch!
infused, but OUCH! at the scalpel swipe,
the prostrate one tightening up
fighting back with his only bit
of available muscle
as above his shoulder, the doctor starts to shriek:
"You oppose me! You oppose me!!")

Forget such stories, in the name of deep breathing,
in the name of hatha yoga
—- relaxation therapy;
as a million dank villous fingers clamp down
to slow its progress,
and are promptly overruled.

But negotiating the great splenic bend is more than I bargained for,
I grow shocky: If it's all going to be like this, then I quit!
adding: "Is it too late for sedation"?
But the nurse pats my sweaty back,
the sleek craft noses deeper into inner space.
Suddenly I feel for "The Pain is Real" victims,
for the gaunt young man in the waiting room
flipping through New Yorker cartoons for answers;
for abandoned old duffers everywhere
curled up on their cots,
muttering —

But relief comes quick to the healthy;
turning over for the transverse portion of our journey
things start to ease up, even as the air shoots in
so the man can do what he's paid to- —

We're finally in the coecum; for he asks the nurse
to "wiggle the coecum" (my coecum) —another new experience.
This is the place that killed my mother;
I hold my breath; what if he lingers . . .
"Hmmm," he says, "let's give this lens a wash".
But soon we're on our way out to brighter land,
where we need no fiber optic light
and corners are turned easily.
A wad of kleenex is left in place,
for the mopping up.

"I'm sorry if I gave you a rough time," I say
getting dressed in my propriety.
"Oh, I think it was us who gave you the rough time," he replies,
then announces:
"You're clean."



Ron Charach's works copyright © to the author.


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