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Dreams and the Doctor

“You can’t be what you cannot see” — Marian Wright Edelman

By Diane HelentjarisPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

Dreams reflect our days

like the shards of a broken mirror —

the bits and pieces of our awake time,

reformed and reassembled and patched,

reglued into a tale that makes sense.

A child’s fever, the smell of fresh cinnamon bread,

an upcoming algebra test,

all repurposed into a psychic nighttime experience.

All the pieces, or maybe just the best ones, or the worst ones,

or the ones that make no sense,

but make the hairs stand up on your forearms.

Patiently put into a story of triumphs and tests,

sadness and sillies to run like a film strip

through our mind during the darkness.

I dream in color and complexity.

At two, my birthday gift was a pair of western boots,


red, yellow, and blue insets on brown.

I wanted a horse.

I wanted to be a cowgirl.

I already had the boots.

Just needed the pony.

At four, I wanted to be an artist.

My mother sketched fashion models for me

and taught me to shade

by pressing harder with my crayons

where I needed a shadow.

At seven, I wanted to be a ballerina.

Other girls took ballet classes

which we couldn’t afford

but I saw Maria Tallchief on the television.

I yearned for a tutu and pink ribboned shoes

and decided to be a ballerina.

I never wanted to go to college.

No one had in my family,

but the guidance counselor pulled me into her office

when I was eleven

and said I was a good reader

and I was going to college.

I never wanted to be a doctor.

Doctors were hard to come by out in the country

and even harder to keep.

Our hamlet had a doctor once, for a year or two,

He was of the plain people.

He wore a black hat and black outfit

and no zippers and had no car.

His wife wore a prayer bonnet and cape.

A Mennonite or German Baptist or Dunkard or Amish.

One of those.

Our doctor — till the government took him away

to serve his time as a conscientious objector during Viet Nam.

I never wanted to be a doctor

Doctors performed miracles

At six a doctor restored my sight

My eyes swollen shut from some unknown happening

Carried in late at night

Gently cared for

Till slits of light appeared

And I saw the tiger-striped linoleum of the young doctor’s floor.

Doctors were magicians.

They used plastic in mysterious ways

and reshaped my brother’s lip and palate

or at least that’s what I understood.

I could tell by looking they were all men.

I never saw a woman doctor

Why would I think of being one?

Until I took the aptitude test in college.

It said I could be a woman doctor or lawyer or psychologist.

What a crazy idea.

Which I ignored for a year or two.

The dream of becoming a doctor

Was a long time coming.


About the Creator

Diane Helentjaris

Diane Helentjaris uncovers the overlooked. Her latest book Diaspora is a poetry chapbook of the aftermath of immigration. www.dianehelentjaris.com

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