Doctor Smith by Tom McColl

The surgery I go to
has a two-headed doctor.
‘Doctor Smith will see you, see you, now.’

It gets very confusing.
Doctor Smith, via his left head,
gives me a diagnosis
then, via his right head,
gives me a second opinion,
which always differs from the first
(and, as it happens,
that opinion’s
never the best one –
always the worst).

When Doctor Smith examines me with a stethoscope,
it’s in the left head’s left ear
and the right head’s right ear.
In other words, he makes a right pig’s ear
(and also a left pig’s ear)
of any examination he does.
However, when I once challenged him about it,
Doctor Smith’s left head
just said,
‘Can you breathe in a bit more deeply, please?’
while his right head shook morosely.

Apparently, his wife has got two heads as well,
and two pairs of breasts.
It’s said they met as impoverished but physically normal students,
earning money by undergoing laboratory tests.

Two heads are better than one, they say,
but I’m not too sure that comes into play
while attending an appointment with
the always-in-two-minds Doctor Smith.

Thomas McColl has had poems published in magazines such as Envoi, Rising, Iota and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and his first full collection of poetry, Being With Me Will Help You Learn, is out now from Listen Softly London Press.



A G.P. Submits Case Notes by Beth McDonough

(Evidence of Reasons for Non-attendance at Incidents in Orchards by St Madoes)

Monday: Maggie Sinclair fell from a recent-rotted bough,
brought on by last winter’s wersh of snows.
If she bruised, sustained a twist, well, nothing left her lips.
She still won’t let me know.

Tuesday: Some creeping culprit cut up Cutler Grieve.
No-one knew quite why.
If he needed surtures, I really couldn’t say.
The family made it clear. They consider me a spy.

Wednesday: Little Oslin was wormy to the core.
I expect he festered quickly. Yes, I fear
they just suspect he’s resting, but
he doesn’t want me near.

Thursday: Rough wee Scrog was dragged off in the jaws
of their neighbour’s toothless dog.
Perhaps I asked too much.
They claimed they saw the Vet, but they looked at me agog.

Friday: Yon Scotch Dumpling was scabbed in every place.
I even mentioned maggots,
but they crumbled at my offer.
I know. I’ll never make my targets.

But, bugger me – the weekend!

What I watched the Lass o’ Gowrie do
furrowed with her burly Bloody Ploughman
may not require me quickly, but be certain
their activities and liberties will need a closer scan.

Beth McDonough finds poems whilst swimming in lochs and rivers, foraging and riddling with Anglo Saxons. Often writing of a maternal experience of disability, she was Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts 2014-16. ‘Handfast,’ her poetry duet pamphlet (with Ruth Aylett) was published in May 2016.


Said the Doctor by Mark Farley

(with apologies to Lewis Carroll and Old Father William)

Said the doctor:
My goodness. My gracious! That boil is so big,
It’s almost as large as your head!
Pray allow me to poke it with needle or pin,
If it grows any more, you’ll be dead.

Said the patient:
I beg you, dear doctor, put your needle away,
For I’m rather attached to this boil.
It may look unsightly but the pain goes away,
When I wrap it in cling film and foil.

Said the doctor:
My god, man. Dear heavens! Now what do I see?
There’s a ferret asleep in your ear.
He’s flat on his back in a puddle of wine,
And he’s clutching a bottle of beer.

Said the patient:
Yes that’s Barney, my ferret. He’s a wonderful friend.
We party each night and play chess.
He drinks wine when he loses and beer when he wins,
So by morning he looks quite a mess.

Said the doctor:
I can hardly believe it, but my stethoscope swears,
That you appear to have developed five hearts.
Is this true? Is this possible? Pray tell me, dear boy,
From where did you get these spare parts?

Said the patient:
Dear doctor, I thank you, but I really must go.
I have been poked and been prodded enough.
My sides are quite raw from your medical check.
You have been most incredibly rough.

Said the doctor:
I’m sorry. Forgive me! Oh, please do not go!
Your body is still quite the mystery.
Pray, stay. I’ll be gentle. Let me examine you more.
We can make medical history!

Said the patient:

Mark Farley is a writer, web developer and occasional opera singer. He was raised in Zimbabwe where he survived two dog maulings, a swarm of killer bees, and being run over by a horse. He now lives in Swindon, UK.