“Patient Encounter” by Philippe Shils

Philippe Shils


I ask her what I can do for her today.
She has a history of seizures and maybe schizophrenia.
She knows some things about me and my daughter
and has offered advice on how to deal with epilepsy
via eating more celery and taking in vitamins.
She sent money to Texas, she was prayed for,
and her seizures healed.
“I wasn’t born this way,” she says and
again loudly, “I wasn’t born this way.” She, unlike
almost everyone, looks you in the eye like
we’re taught to do. “I have one pupil bigger
than the other. It makes me look retarded.
I don’t like the way it makes me look.”
I confirm the anomaly and never have noticed this
although I’ve shined the light in her eyes
every time I’ve seen her which has been every
four months over eight years. She’s been fired by her
neurologists because she won’t do what they tell
her to do. She takes her medicines ad lib and
not on days when she feels an entire
side of her body go numb. She says, “God
wouldn’t create anything imperfect. I wasn’t born
this way.” Today I feel argumentative and besides
what will she do? “God has nothing to do with this.
You have a seizure disorder. Epilepsy. Your eyes aren’t
noticed by anyone. The tingling you feel is seizures.
The numbness you feel is seizures. You used to be nice.
When did you become mean like this?”
She points at me and says, “I feel sorry for
you. You don’t understand that people
are born perfect.” I look at her asymmetric eyes
and her photocopied and annotated articles on
zinc and vitamin e and open her chart and
fumble through it and then listen to her heart
just over her belt and wonder who married her
because someone did. Someone that died,
she tells me, thinking she was perfect.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012


Philippe Shils: “I’m a 46-year-old physician assistant who lives in Decatur, Illinois. I’m the father of a special needs daughter. I stopped writing poetry for many years but when my daughter was about two got back into contact with some friends of mine who had worked on a high school literary magazine with me and restarted in earnest. We have an online poetry workshop called ‘newnew pennies.’ When times have been at their toughest with my daughter, writing poems and sharing them with my friends has made me feel like something worthwhile was coming from something that can seem pointless and very lonely. Our lives are unique but contain universality. Poetry is companionship.” (website)

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