After a career as a country doctor in rural Alabama and British Columbia’s Cariboo region, Sterling Haynes has turned his experiences into a second career as a writer and poet. His Momma Does Milk pulled no punches about the experiences of nursing mothers. Narratives for Dummies was inspired by a talk we both attended, about the importance of telling our personal stories.
This poem, based on his true story, “Mary’s Tomatoes”, gives us insight into what it must be like to be a family physician in a community where this kind of interchange is common.
Where ya been Mister Doctor?
I been really sick, had a bunch of bad bowels
almost died ya know, in our hospital. When
ya closed your office, retired and all
and left me, Joe and the kids, alone.
My kids give up on me and then,
even called the priest, ya know,
they thought I was a gonner.
Yeah, Mister Doctor, was in
a four bed ward, they moved me to a private, even.
They all come to see me, even Joe and
it was way past visiting hours and all,
them nurses was so good to me at the hospital.
They said my bowels got tangled up
and you had retired Mister Doctor, ya know.
That friend of yours, the surgeon, Doc Gordie
said I had a bowel obstruction and he
took a piece of rotten bowels out, Mister Doctor.
Ya know Doc. I got better and then
planted my tomato garden when I was discharged.
My Joe has a bad back, ya know and he didn’t
plant my tomato plants like I told him to, they got all
wilty like, Mister Doctor. When I got home, I done
a bad thing in my garden and planted
forty eight beef steak tomato plants.
It was late at night, Mister Doctor when
I spread the chicken manure and pounded in
the tomato stakes, ya know. Then my gut split up
open and Doc Gordie said I “dehissed’ when I
fell in my my tomato patch and almost died.
It was a close call, Mister Doctor. Doctor Gordie,
was really mad with me, ya know, he put me in an
intensified ward and fed me IV’s and antibiotics
by the ton. Joe didn’t call the priest and
Doctor Gordie kept sayin’ “but chicken shit and leaves.”
I’m OK, now Mister Doctor. Here look at my three scars,
two up and down and one across. The one with the
big bag hooked into it gave me this ugly scar, ya know,
I didn’t like farting through a bag and them big
nylon stiches held all my guts inside, where they belong.
Sure miss ya Mister Doctor but things is so
different now. If you see Doctor Gordie tell him
my ‘beef steaks’ is gettin’ ripe, fast and Joe and the kids
is all OK now that mamma’s back home in charge.
I’ll drop off some tomatoes at his place in a couple of weeks.