Iowa Writes

Mental Status Exam

Remember three things
and I'll ask for them
the doctor says,


I practice counting back sevens
and presidents
before my appointments,
and write today's date and the year of my birth
on my palm.

There is milk in the pantry and peanut butter
in the fridge
and an old diaper lost somewhere.
But doctor doesn't ask the hard stuff,
like figuring the babysitter's pay.

Always Apple...Orange...Umbrella
every visit, every patient
and we pass because someone
scratched tiny images
in the chrome trim of the exam table.

Maybe it was he.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Kathleen Walsh Spencer, editor-in-chief of Plastic Surgical Nursing Journal, practices as a post-anesthesia care nurse in metropolitan Detroit.  Her poems have appeared in Rosebud, Nimrod, Rattle, Clackamas Literary Review, and other journals, as well as in the collections Intensive Care: More Poetry and Prose by Nurses and a chapter in The Poetry of Nursing: Poems and Commentary by Leading Nurse Poets.  Spencer says, "I write poems to preserve moments that aren't recordable with film, audio or video.  It is the truth of emotion, not the facts of the narrative, that is important, and once that is on the page, it is mine forever."

This poem originally appeared in Volume 5, Number 1 of 100 Words, a journal published by the University of Iowa's International Writing Program between 1993 and 1998. Each piece in the journal had to be 100 words or fewer, and each issue had a theme. This issue's theme was "On Memory."

This page was first displayed
on March 13, 2008

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