“Complaint” By William Carlos Williams

They call me and I go.
It is a frozen road
past midnight, a dust
of snow caught
in the rigid wheeltracks.
The door opens.
I smile, enter and
shake off the cold.
Here is a great woman
on her side in the bed.
She is sick,
perhaps vomiting,
perhaps laboring
to give birth to
a tenth child. Joy! Joy!
Night is a room
darkened for lovers,
through the jalousies the sun
has sent one golden needle!
I pick the hair from her eyes
and watch her misery
with compassion.

I love the poem for its bareness and simplicity and clarity, which Williams the imagist looked for in poetry as a sister study to medicine. Poetry and medicine are so much made for each other. A doctor is making a house-call on a laboring woman to deliver her tenth child, a joy, a joy! Love’s labor not lost! Through the jealousies the sun has sent a golden needle! A lover’s job done, a doctor’s begins.

The doctor comes in from the cold. His smile is warm, although it is a tenth child-birth, perhaps in a catholic house of faith. The doctor is filled with compassion. He gently picks the hair from her eyes and watches her in misery with compassion.

Advertisements