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Posts Tagged ‘physician poets’

Poems for August 2013

Posted by mcdoc on August 6, 2013

Rafael Campo

(1964 – )

Morbidity and Mortality Rounds
hippocrates_prize_logo_med

Forgive me, body before me, for this.
Forgive me for my bumbling hands, unschooled
in how to touch: I meant to understand
what fever was, not love. Forgive me for
my stare, but when I look at you, I see
myself laid bare. Forgive me, body, for
what seems like calculation when I take
a breath before I cut you with my knife,
because the cancer has to be removed.
Forgive me for not telling you, but I’m
no poet. Please forgive me, please. Forgive
my gloves, my callous greeting, my unease—
you must not realize I just met death
again. Forgive me if I say he looked
impatient. Please, forgive me my despair,
which once seemed more like recompense. Forgive
my greed, forgive me for not having more
to give you than this bitter pill. Forgive:
for this apology, too late, for those
like me whose crimes might seem innocuous
and yet whose cruelty was obvious.
Forgive us for these sins. Forgive me, please,
for my confusing heart that sounds so much
like yours. Forgive me for the night, when I
sleep too, beside you under the same moon.
Forgive me for my dreams, for my rough knees,
for giving up too soon. Forgive me, please,
for losing you, unable to forgive.

“Morbidity and Mortality Rounds” by Rafael Campo from Alternative Medicine, Duke University Press. ©2013 Rafael Campo. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
(1844 – 1889)

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things–

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.

“Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins written 1877.

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Poems for August 2011

Posted by mcdoc on August 12, 2011

John Stone
(1936 – 2008)

Whittling: The Last Class

What has been written
about whittling
is not true

most of it

It is the discovery
that keeps
the fingers moving

not idleness

but the knife looking for
the right plane
that will let the secret out

Whittling is no pastime

he says
who has been whittling
in spare minutes at the wood

of his life for forty years

Three rules he thinks
have helped
Make small cuts

In this way

you may be able to stop before
what was to be an arm
has to be something else

Always whittle away from yourself

and toward something.
For God’s sake
and your own
know when to stop

Whittling is the best example
I know of what most
may happen when

least expected

bad or good
Hurry before
angina comes like a pair of pliers

over your left shoulder

There is plenty of wood
for everyone
and you

Go ahead now

May you find
in the waiting wood
rough unspoken

what is true

or
nearly true
or

true enough.

Louise Bogan
(1897 – 1970)

The Dragonfly

You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Unending hunger,
Grappling love.

Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer.

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Poems for July 2010

Posted by mcdoc on July 7, 2010

Wendell Berry (1934 – )

The Wish to Be Generous

All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man’s evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

Lisa Furmanski (1969 – )

The History of Mothers of Sons

All sons sleep next to mothers, then alone, then with others
Eventually, all our sons bare molars, incisors
Meanwhile, mothers are wingless things in a room of stairs
A gymnasium of bars and ropes, small arms hauling self over self

Mothers hum nonsense, driving here
and there (Here! There!) in hollow steeds, mothers reflecting
how faint reflections shiver over the road
All the deafening musts along the way

Mothers favor the moon—hook-hung and mirroring the sun—
there, in a berry bramble, calm as a stone

This is enough to wrench our hand out of his
and simply devour him, though he exceeds even the tallest grass

Every mother recalls a lullaby, and the elegy blowing through it

Audio file of the poet reading her poem.

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Poems for January 2010

Posted by mcdoc on January 1, 2010

Brian McMichael (1961 – )

Dark Star

The unimaginable mass in his abdomen
Pushes mercilessly through his back
Passes instantly through the hospital bed
And sinks into the center of the earth
Pinning him in position
– a specimen in a collection
a great recumbent termite queen
a distended and humbled, Jabba the Hut

Ballooning
Pregnant like a blister
Without shame or irony
He tells me, “I try to drink a 12-pack a day.”
Do I hide my shock?
An awkward attempt at connection,
Or is it that I’m trying to surprise him
right back in the kisser
By predicting that he no longer gets a buzz
that some people drink like that
just to keep from getting the shakes,
“Yep, and so I won’t hallucinate like I did last Wednesday.”

In Labor –
ed breathing
We deliver him by
Caesarian invasion
crossing the Rubicon into his homeland
by “tapping his belly”

He is polite and grateful
Chatting easily about his
Interesting and lost career

Cause and Effect
Ascites fluid – Clear and golden
Streaming into sterile vacuum bottles
Produces a startlingly nice head,
Usually

We fastidiously capture his
Disturbingly milky elixir
Easy blame slips away

7 liters later
He breathes easier
While at the same moment
The other person in the room,
His dark star child
Begins to grow again
Inside his belly

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

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Poems for August 2008

Posted by mcdoc on October 13, 2008

Margaret Atwood (1939 – )

The Woman Who Could Not Live with Her Faulty Heart

I do not mean the symbol
of love, a candy shape
to decorate cakes with,
the heart that is supposed
to belong or break;

I mean this lump of muscle
that contracts like a flayed biceps,
purple-blue, with its skin of suet,
its skin of gristle, this isolate,
this caved hermit, unshelled
turtle, this one lungful of blood,
no happy plateful.

All hearts float in their own
deep oceans of no light,
wetblack and glimmering,
their four mouths gulping like fish.
Hearts are said to pound:
this is to be expected, the heart’s
regular struggle against being drowned.

But most hearts say, I want, I want,
I want, I want. My heart
is more duplicitious,
though no twin as I once thought.
It says, I want, I don’t want, I
want, and then a pause.
It forces me to listen,

and at night it is the infra-red
third eye that remains open
while the other two are sleeping
but refuses to say what it has seen.

It is a constant pestering
in my ears, a caught moth, limping drum,
a child’s fist beating
itself against the bedsprings:
I want, I don’t want.
How can one live with such a heart?

Long ago I gave up singing
to it, it will never be satisfied or lulled.
One night I will say to it:
Heart, be still,
and it will.

Alice Jones (1949 – )

Anorexia

Not everyone is so skilled
at the ancient art, not everyone
can exist on air, refusing
the burden of flesh. Hating

the yellow globs of fat in any
form—under the skin, padding
the heart, cushions for the eye’s
globes, but mostly those

that mark her as her mother’s—
the encumbering curves of hip
or breast, she eats only
oranges and water, a cannibal

of self. Trying to undo all
the knots the female body has
tied, all the cyclical obligations,
to gush, to feed, she chooses

to hone her shape down,
her scapulae prepared like
thin birds, to fly away from
the spine. Barely held together

by silk and liquid and air,
she floats, flightless, the water’s
iciness along her back;
she tries not to be sucked

down by the black cold,
its deadliness pulling
at the nape of her long neck,
biting at her unfeathered heels.

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Poems for July 2008

Posted by mcdoc on October 13, 2008

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

from Paterson, Book V, The River of Heaven
….
My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
of something
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
Hear me out
for I too am concerned
and every man
who wants to die at peace in his bed
besides.

Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

What the Doctor Said

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

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