The Epic of the Bed Pan

Those of you who have visited my bookstore this summer know that I now feature quite an assortment of used books. Among the assorted libraries that have found their way to me is a huge selection that once belonged to Eugene Gunnlaugson from Washington Island.

To say that Eugene’s interests were varied would be a gross understatement. The collection includes myriads of textbooks on all manner of subjects, reference books, history, health, novels, etc. – so going through these books (very slowly) has been an ongoing treat for a book lover like me.

An added treat, however, has been discovering personal items – ranging from photographs to carefully penned answers to textbook questions to old newspaper clippings – tucked inside many of the books. One of the biggest surprises, however, was discovering that Eugene liked writing poetry.

With permission from Dorothy Gunnlaugson (nee Lindsay) of Sturgeon Bay, Eugene’s sister, I am sharing a very funny poem that I found written out on an antique, postage paid, overseas envelope, tucked inside an old dictionary. Whether this has ever seen print before, I cannot say, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed discovering it.

The Epic of the Bed Pan

When I had my operation

I displayed a lot of guts;

I could take it, smile, and like it,

But the bed pan drove me nuts.

When nature called, I’d call a nurse,

And when I called she ran

And soon I’d have my carcass

Parked on that gosh darn pan.

I’d slide back on my shoulders

But the leverage wasn’t there

And instead of something doing

I’d shoot a flock of air.

And when at last I’d get results,

I’d feel around my seat

To see if I had missed the pan

And piled it on the sheet.

There was a cold sweat on my forehead,

When I’d feel with cautious care,

And with sighs of satisfaction

Find not a thing was there.

But now a new contortion

Would leave me weak and pale;

I’d have to work and twist and squirm

To wipe my poor sore tail.

I’d raise my sitter high mid-air

This closed the gasping span;

My shaky hand would slip and then

I’d grab that gosh darn pan!

The muscles on my neck would bulge

As I stood upon my head.

I’d make a few wild passes

And fall weakly back in bed.

And when I’d ring the nurse came in

And carried off the pan;

I’d wonder why, on such a job,

They didn’t send a man.

Then finally, I’d settle down

That movement was a treat;

But wait a minute! What’s so warm

And wet upon the sheet?

With a gasp of apprehension,

I’d slowly raise my gown

And there beneath my sitter

Would be a blotch of brown.

And so, as operations go,

I’m a burly, big, he-man;

But gosh, it simply burns me up

When I miss that gosh darn pan!