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Common House Magazine

Sunday at the Civic

Melissa Nicholls

I listen to another doctor

explain to me my own consciousness

this one with hushed voice

and kind eyes

crows’ feet crinkling and

offering the clinical tenderness

reserved for a young woman

in visible but nonthreatening distress.


once I’m sure my body language

and facial expression convey

attentive and polite compliance

I give one ear to the physician

and let the remainder of my mind wander


to the Wikipedia page on lobotomies

I read in the waiting room

when I learned of the word stuporous

and the case of a 29-year-old

who after her procedure

was described as having

the personality of an oyster, always smiling and

endlessly pouring coffee into an empty pot.


and before I turn back to the moment

re-situate my whole self in the present

reach out to my psychiatrist with

the blunt fact of my humanity


I say a prayer for this patient

this bygone oyster woman

whose soft and fleshy insides

were carelessly opened

probed and re-arranged

under the guise of help

in the name of science

with unflinching authority


and though it’s much too late

I hold her in my mind-heart

and place her back gently

into the ocean from where she came—


teeming and ungovernable.

Melissa Nicholls lives in Ottawa with her partner, dog, and flower garden. She writes for comfort and to appease her busy mind.

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