The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Susan Holck



We are always silent during the drive there.
We are always silent in the small waiting room with heavy furniture.

In his office toads and frogs, green ceramic croakers on a side table, yellow tadpoles-just-turned-frogs at the foot of a spider plant. A family of bullfrogs gathers on the bookshelf. Bulging red-
yellow eyes broken by black slits, heads up, at attention.

We sink into our designated couch, long to sink deeper, be swallowed, disappear.

I am here because she is unable to answer his questions,
because she is unable to recall events of the week.
I am here because she is sick and I am her mother and he is her doctor.

Dr. Turk, we call him Toad.
Toad accepts her insurance, he costs us $56 an hour.
So how have you been?

She looks away, looks at frogs.
He assumes she is being deliberately difficult, an uncooperative patient as doctors say.

She twirls strands of bleached hair around her fingers, pulls, twirls, pulls again, patches of scalp
beginning to show. Unnerved, he resorts to an old trick.
            Count down from 100, subtract seven each time.
                    100 93 86 She passes, this she can do.

White discs scattered about the room continue their noise-cancelling whir.
How has the last week been?

I say: she has been listless, confused, scribbles in the margins of newspapers.
I say: when she speaks she begs me to let her die.

Toad ups the dose of whatever medicine was prescribed last time.
He reminds us it takes time to see an effect. I am reminded
it takes time to see no effect.




SUSAN HOLCK is a retired physician who lived in Switzerland for 30 years before relocating to Philadelphia. After decades of scientific writing, she began writing poetry. Her poetry has been published in Cecile’s Writers Magazine, By&By Poetry, The Ocotillo Review, and Bluestem Magazine.



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