Playing Doctor

by Karen Greenbaum-Maya

I found out later how other kids played doctor. We didn’t use white caps with red crosses. No fake thermometers, no spelunking, no groping.  Our doctor waited, eyes shut, while the rest made a circle, clutched hands, entangled as viciously as they could, twisted and knotted on the patch of scratchy Bermuda, all that was left of the tract home yard after the new addition and the patio. Under and over and over, crawling and surmounting, bending and twisting, whatever the joints and limbs could contrive.

Doctor doctor we are sick
Help us            help us             help us quick
If you’re such a great physician
Get us out of this position

And our doctor tries to undo, restore the circle to simplicity, make us go back the way we came, get back the way we started. Our doctor has to arrive at a way to restore the circle without asking the impossible, has to find the way that cannot stay thwarted. We confound her, we fight her all the way, we hope to triumph.

If you’re such a great physician
Get us out of this position

Relax your wrists, let me make space between them, open them up. Unhook your leg from that one’s shoulder, lift your arms over your head, crawl back away through the arch of their hands, back through the way you came in. Play fair, says our doctor. If you hold tight to that way, I have to believe you that it hurts you more to get out than it does to stay.

We defy, we screech, we make the horrible sounds of our new little sibs. We screech as though our doctor were the bees in the ivy that makes cyclone fencing into a solid wall of woven branches. We roll yelling, publicizing pain, proof it hurts more to get free than to suffer. Not some family portrait requiring smiles. At nine, there was always a way out.


A Note About the Author: Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and photographer, no longer lives for Art but still thinks about it a lot. Her work appears in venues including Sow’s Ear, Comstock Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Otoliths, Naugatuck, and, Measure. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Kelsay Books publishes her book, The Book of Knots and their Untying. She co-hosts Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California.