How To Scan A Poet

Be still and I will pass you through the ring

Be still and I will pass you through the ring

I have recently had to undergo a series of tests and scans in my local hospital, and whilst I found the hi-tech paraphernalia and strange clinically detached and isolated atmosphere of the hospital itself a little disturbing and alienating, I found the language that clustered around the scan itself strangely familiar; words like image, contrast, resonance, clarity, all seemed right and familiar to me as a poet, so in the end I got through it by, as it were submitting myself as a poem to be scanned. I haven’t had a firm result from these scans  yet, though I am assuming no news is good news, but at least I got this poem out of it.

As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or the play button

How To Scan A Poet


My doctor tells me I will need a scan;

I tap a nervous rhythm with my feet,

‘Just count to five’, she says, ‘and then sit down.


The gist of it is printed on this sheet,

So read it over when you are at home.

We’ll have a clearer picture when we meet’.


I read the letter in a waiting room,

It’s language strangely rich for one like me

Image, Contrast, Resonance; a poem


Slips into view amidst the litany

Of Latin terms that make our medicine

A new poetic terminology.


The door is opened. I am ushered in

To lisp my list of symptoms, to rehearse

The undiscovered art of naming pain.


‘Its called deep inspiration, says the nurse,

‘Draw deep for me then simply hold your breath

And stay composed.’ So I compose this verse.


She says ‘We dye for contrast, to unearth

Each hidden image, which might bring

Some clue that takes us closer to the truth.


Be still and I will pass you through the ring,

Three passes, all in rhythm, and you’re free,

The resonance will show us everything’


And now my Muse says much the same to me,

Scanning these lines, and calling me to sing.


Filed under imagination, Poems

32 responses to “How To Scan A Poet

  1. You’ve just proved that all life is a poem. I’m cleaning out my basement now; I must change my view of it to poetry. 🙂

  2. malcolmguite


  3. Thank you for this. I’ll be praying…

  4. malcolmguite

    Thanks Jeanette

  5. That’s so beautiful! I’ve had a lot of time in hospitals recently with various members of my family, and I love this. Thanks for sharing – and showing how your God-given gift helps in all parts of life. And I hope that all is well with you.

  6. Lovely. I had a stroke last year and got swished through the machine. Beforehand I was asked what kind of music would be relaxing. I chose movie themes and when I lay there with Celine Dion assuring me my heart would go on, I was hardly able to stop laughing long enough to give any sort of image at all. On the other hand, the laugh was surprisingly healing.. I wish you the best of results with the tests.

  7. Love the use of medical language for poetic purpose.

  8. Christine Smith

    Dear Malcolm,
    Great beauty here in whet must feel like ashes. Grace, mercy, healing and great peace be yours, in massive abundance.
    With love and and prayers,

  9. God’s peace, Malcolm. All will be well, and all manner of things will be well — as long as there’s poetry 🙂

  10. Some say math exists in everything. I like the idea that poetry exists in everything though, Malcolm. 😀

    Sending good thoughts your way and prayers on your behalf…
    Diana xo

  11. Thanks so much for this, Malcolm. I’m receiving long-term chemotherapy in an experimental trial, and spend literally hours on end in scanners of various sorts. My next is scheduled for Wednesday 27th Aug, and I have every intention of memorising this before then, to accompany as I “swish through” 🙂
    Many blessings, and prayers for your own health.

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Simon many thanks for this and thoughts and prayers for your treatment. I am honoured to think you might find my poem worth remembering for your next scan! M

  12. The machine looks familiar! How amazing to play with medical terminology and transfigure it as you do.

    You are in my prayers.

    Elizabeth Winder Noyes

  13. Timothy Tyler

    I have several scanners on the floor below me in my cancer center and peruse their images on a periodic basis. Thank you for putting into focus that which I know so well and yet never quite saw as clearly as when your voice just took me there. I shall pray the truths it reveals are those needed for healing and comfort.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Timothy vim glad to know my poem is connecting with someone who understands and uses this astonishing technology 🙂

  14. I love this stanza:

    “She says ‘We dye for contrast, to unearth

    Each hidden image, which might bring

    Some clue that takes us closer to the truth.”

    I hadn’t noticed the similarities between medical & poetic language. I’ll be on the lookout for it now. Hope all is well with you!

  15. A stroke of brilliance …

  16. Best wishes for complete recovery. Your poem is brilliant.

  17. O Thurtle

    Nice rhyme Malcolm, best wishes for a good result. Owen

  18. Emi Shigeno

    Marvelous how you pick up sounds of familiar comforts where most would feel anxious and estranged. I worked in a hospital where these words were familiar. How strange you’ve changed all that for me in how you’ve rearranged them…. I pray that all goes well.

  19. Hospitals make me so very nervous, especially when it comes to testing. I love that you found familiarity there. Beautiful. Sending up a prayer for you.

  20. Wendy Peterson

    Having been scanned recently, I resonated with your clever poem. I decided with all the buzzes, blinks and breath holding, I still prefer being scanned to being scammed. The results are a different topic. Cheers and prayer for good outcome. Wendy P

  21. Beautiful poetry, Malcom. I can relate totally. My prayers are with you.

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