A&P

Back in 1975, before the days of mass hybridization, watermelons had seeds. When I worked for a summer at a grocery store in Estes Park Colorado, one of my many tasks involved cutting melons so that the seeds were not visible. Near the end of the summer while I was passing on my expertise at watermelon slicing to a new employee, the lost-looking 20 year old darted his hand under the melon just as I shoved the knife down. He went to the ER. I never saw him again. I wonder to this day why he did it.

===============================

A&P

There is an art

to watermelon slicing.

Reading the skin just right

and directing the slice between

the seeds, revealing

a cut surface of solid red meat.

Covered in Saran and placed on a bed

of ice, such a melon entices:

the illusion of a melon

without seeds, the hope

this may be the one seeds forgot.

 

The ripest melon is chosen,

I place it place it on the slab.

Guided by the line drawn

by my fingers, the knife hovers

over the landmarks, the ridges

of alternating stripes, green

by darker green. The knife lingers

as I wait for the sweet crunch

of split rind. Raising my shoulder

and leaning down, I hear the delicate

crack of flesh parting by my touch

 

I can see, this is another

perfect cut. The slice is deep,

to the quick. An artery

is now open, my blood

wells up and flows by this pulse.

Such bleeding, it seems,

should never stop.

 

KURT BIEHL ©2012

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EXCERPTS FROM A SUICIDE

This is a series of vignettes drawn from a larger unfinished work entitled A Suicide. It is written in the first person.  You might think it is about me  — it’s not.  As a physician and psychiatrist, it is both a gift and a  burden that patient stories often become our stories.

=================================================

EXCERPTS FROM A SUICIDE

-1-

It has something to do with edges, the corners

of my room, the way sun streaks through my shutters

and seeks out every angle, slicing deep

into shadows, marking the walls and exposing the floor.

These walls are not perfect, my ground, uneven,

the cracks and pits are caught by light

and magnified – grotesque, unfathomed flaws.

When I was young, I once saw a crack so long

it seemed bigger than any wall, stronger than any plaster.

Breaking loose and splitting wide, this fantastic chasm,

this monstrous mouth, would swallow whole my house.

Such cracks are always waiting, waiting to take me in.

-2-

Something is wrong in my room,

but it cannot be me, it is not

my head, my brain is perfect,

unflawed. I have vision, I reason

beyond all limits. The problem

isn’t there, it isn’t

my mind. It is

what I lack, I do

not have.

I cannot reach, my touch is loose.

-3-

This is the day

I have always waited for.

All my life has tilted

towards this point.

A hot day in the middle

of August, a perfect

reflection of every day

I have ever known.

This is to be

that delicious day

when all the thousand

wrongs of my life

will be set right.

Everything will be focussed

into a few final moments

and dispersed by one wave

of my hand, tossed out

into the sky, crimson dissolving

into blue, casting a purple

haze over the horizon.

-4-

Grasping for life, I feel

the touch of fingers tight

on this gun. These are

my fingers, this is my hand.

I reach deep

into my mouth, searching

for the softest spot, the surest

way through my neck.

Probing gently towards this delicate

sweetbread of my throat, it seems

this gun has always been here.

Curling my lips tight

on the barrel, I can taste

charcoal and steel. I shiver

to the touch of cold metal

held by my teeth. These are

my teeth, this is my kiss.

I sense the sharp snap

of the trigger, I smell

the smoke swelling

within the chamber.

But the hard crack

is beyond me: I leave that for others to hear.

-5-

In this final moment

as metal touch metal

and sulphur sparks saltpeter

into carbon dust, a chunk of lead

is set into motion. A thick sea of blood

and gristle flows within the wake of this bullet,

severing ganglia and splitting cord as the soft element

mushrooms into hard bone. There is a bloom of life

as brilliant and fantastic as the billowing smoke

and heated flame bursting from my pistol.

KURT BIEHL ©2012

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THE ANATOMY LAB

The Chorda Tympani is a small branch of the facial nerve that passes through the middle ear. During first year medical school, my cadaver lab instructor offered a 6-pack of beer to any student who could locate this tiny nerve intact. I found it. He reneged.

I later wanted to somehow convey the experience of cadaver lab: dissecting a human body that has been drained of blood and soaked in formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde for six months until all the various tissues congeal into an indistinguishable greenish-grey conglomeration. Naturally, I turned to Lewis Carroll for inspiration.

=================================

THE CHORDA TYMPANI

.

‘Twere basilar, and the lithy nose

Did wod and wibble on the gabe;

All mimpy were the smegma toes

And the bonetome hacks outgrave.

.

“Beware the Chorda Tympani –

In jaws that bit, it jowls now dead!

Beware the fascial planes, and skin

With care this mummied head.”

.

He took his scalpy blade in hand,

By Grant his search was lead;

Then crouched he by the stainless tank

And thought a while instead.

.

And as in oafish stead he thought

The Chorda Tymp. with sheath of grey,

Came wiggling though the pulpy lot

And dangled where it lay!

.

One, two! One two! And round and round

His blunt-end probe went slurpy-slop!

He left it bare, and called for aide

To see what he did crop.

.

“And hast thou found the Chorda Tymp?

To me you this must show

That may be it! But do you know

From whence its fibers go?”

.

‘Twere basilar, and the lithy nose

Did wod and wibble on the gabe;

All mimpy were the smegma toes

And the bonetome hacks outgrave.

.

KURT BIEHL ©1986

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VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

what is a blog without poetry?

Theme:

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens.

.

-1-

 so important

is

a red radio

flyer

crusted with mud

and rust

nearby the pink

flamingos

.

-2-

it really matters

when

a red nerf

ball

soaked with toddler

spit

is lost in the white

rosebush

.

-3-

so pretty

is

a red

frisbee

glistened with sweat

flung into

the white

cherry blossoms

.

-4-

your child support

depends

on a red

bank check

scribbled in

resentment

inside a white

envelope

.

-5-

you need to wear Depends™

when

a Big Red sipped

in leisure

makes you

pee

your white

pants

.

-6-

so little depends

on

a red

proboscis

swollen by vodka

blown

with a white

tissue

.

-7-

who cares

when

a red

dodge ball

smelling of sweat

and saliva

hits you right

in the breadbasket

.

-8-

it never

ends;

the red

variations

both silly

and somewhat clever

posted relentlessly

on WordPress

.

-9-

william carlos williams

was

read

by many

so obvious

his observations

so acclaimed

by white critics

.

 

Kurt Biehl

copyright 2011

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Post From Defunct Blog 5/7/2011

Last Tuesday, on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan guests were a couple of docs who wrote a book called “Shrink Rap.” They were talking about “what psychiatrists really do all day.” Neal requested to hear from psychiatrists to describe what they liked about their jobs. I sent the following email:

“As a psychiatrist with 20 years experience in multiple setting in three different states, what I love about my job is the opportunity to alleviate suffering and alienation at  human level. Many of the patients I have seen have had bad experiences with prior treatments. Even a 15 minute interaction has the potential for profound healing to take place . I need to know the medications, but more important is the ability to create a genuine and compassionate connection.”

Neal Conan read my email on the air. I chose not to call. I didn’t feel like rapping.

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