Metro psychiatry

Photo by Flickr user thebigdurian. Click for sourceThis month’s British Journal of Psychiatry has a poignant poem by Canadian poet and psychiatrist Ron Charach who muses on ‘Psychiatrists on the Subway’:

Apparently the poem is from his collection Selected Portraits that contains a number of other poems on psychiatry and mental illness.

Psychiatrists on the Subway

One rarely spots psychiatrists on the subway
rubbing the haze of a long day’s sessions
from their lean temples,
or thumbing through paperbacks that deal
with anything-but.

Wouldn’t they like an update on who’s
In the world and how they’re doing?
Or would the ridership be wary of men and women
whose briefcases rattle with the tic tac
of pills, whose ears perk
like armadillos’ at conversations
two seats over?

More likely we locate them in a bad joke,
in a wing-chair beside a firm couch,
a suicide statistic, a product seminar
with deli sandwiches courtesy of Pfizer or Roche
or Eli Lilly;
perhaps on the beach of a convention hotel
with a panorama of thong-clad beauties
who seldom talk revealingly

Before bed a psychiatrist sets his ears
on the night-table
and prays for a night of long silence
from a god who prefers
to listen.

You can hear Charach himself reading poems from the collection, including ‘Psychiatrists on the Subway’ at this page. He reads in a calm deliberate manner which really suits the material.

Link to poem in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Link to Charach reading his poetry.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 1, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful poem. It reminds me of a story I read many years ago. It was science-fiction though I can’t remember what was sci-fi about it. Basically it was about a psychiatrist who left his practise and wandered around a beach with a t-shirt that had rorschach blots on it and did free and free wheeling therapy as he wandered. He’d left his successful and lucrative practice when he discovered his hearing was impaired and all these years he had been mishearing his clients. And worse–they got wonderfully better through his response to what he misheard.


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