Showing 1 - 10 of 20 annotations contributed by Terry, James
Summary:Many of these poems are confessional accounts of gay love and sexuality. Another group clearly draw on the author’s clinical experiences as a physician. A few poems (e.g. "For You All Beauty", "Her Final Show") mix those broad categories in talking about the care of AIDS patients.The 11 short poems under the sequence title "Ten Patients, and Another" are the most clinical. They mimic clinical presentations during rounds in several ways: individual poems under patient initials--Mrs. G, John Doe; opening lines with the patient’s age, race, and gender; even presenting complaints with hospital shorthand. For example, in "Kelly" Campo begins: "The patient is a twelve-year-old white female. / She’s gravida zero, no STD’s. / She’s never even had a pelvic. One / month nausea and vomiting. No change / in bowel habits. No fever, chills, malaise." But in this poem and others of the sequence, the clinical gradually turns to the personal: "Her pelvic was remarkable for scars / At six o’clock, no hymen visible, / Some uterine enlargement. Pregnancy / Tests positive times two. She says it was / Her dad. He’s sitting in the waiting room."The cumulative effect of the series is a kind of horror at hospital cases and how they get there: a three-year-old who’s ingested cocaine, a homeless man with eyelids frozen shut, one man beaten, another man shot, an abused wife, a suicide, a drug overdose. To feel empathy for these cases, and to turn them into poetry, Campo has practiced the art of medicine as a form of love.Campo also writes as a patient who has experienced a serious arm fracture and subsequent threat of cancer in the 16-poem sequence "Song Before Dying." This changes his perspective on care-giving, as he writes in "IX. The Very Self." " . . . more dying waits / Downstairs for me. I almost hear their groans. / Same hunger, bones. Same face we all consumed. / As I examine them, I find the tomb / Toward which they lead. I know it is my own."
Summary:The doctor in question is Art Castagnetto, an obstetrician out for a morning jog who encounters a terrible accident. A young neighborhood boy has been pinned underwater by a concrete slab. Art rushes to a nearby house to summon aid, then tries vainly to move the slab, knowing by feel that the boy is still alive and struggling. The fire department arrives too late. Devastated by this death, Art realizes two days later that he should have improvised a snorkel from a garden hose and saved the boy.
In four proud stanzas, the poet reveals her self-confidence, her graceful rhythm and style, and the inner strength of her femininity. Rather than fashion-magazine beauty, she exults in things like "the stride of my step" or "the swing in my waist "or "the ride of my breasts". In the final stanza she asserts, "When you see me passing / It ought to make you proud." Each stanza closes with the refrain: "I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That’s me."
Summary:The seven sections of this long poem (128 lines) take the author from admission through a bone-marrow procedure (in front of student nurses), surgical prep, post-op recovery, urinary catheterization, and finally, a melancholic post-discharge confrontation with the decay and death of the natural world in late autumn. Sissman directs a sometimes withering sarcasm against both himself and his caregivers, nevertheless controlling a temptation to overdramatize his suffering or attack the hospital environment too harshly. Keen observation and carefully clever metaphors make poetry his best defense against his own impending death from Hodgkin’s disease.
Wagoner dedicates his poem "to the students of anatomy at Indiana University" and later confirms this clue that he is writing about the donated bodies of his parents. He briefly connects the post-mortem physical characteristics of the couple to the lives they led. Then he pleads for respect: "You should treat them / One last time as they would have treated you." Wagoner hopes students will learn from the bodies "as he did" and begs them to learn "politely and truly." Then the kicker as third person: "They gave away the gift of those useful bodies / Against his wish" and closes: "be gentle to everybody."
Swenson’s poems about the body and death express the essential mystery of human experience and of observing the cycles of the natural world. In "Question" she wonders in metaphor about what will become of the Self after death, "when Body my good / bright dog is dead." In "Death, Great Smoothener" Swenson notices the odd roles that the personified death seems to play. In "Feel Me" the poet ponders the curious last words of her dying father, suspecting a considerable indictment of the living by the dying. In "Death Invited" she details the gruesome ending of a bullfight, with death personified by the bull, dragged from the ring only to be replaced by another: "Here comes trotting, snorting death / let loose again."
The gashed hand of a factory worker is bandaged by the factory owner’s son. The worker is at first embarrassed, then compliant. As his fingers work, the owner’s son begins to notice the details of the other hand and to conjure images--"wings of butterflies" and "the marks of wild ponies’ play"--in the worker’s rough hand. Somehow this establishes a brief bond that transcends the class barrier between the two in an act of healing.
Half-waking from surgical anesthesia, a woman named Mary realizes that she has had a breast removed. She immediately begins to imagine how this will affect her already troubled marriage. When she is fully awake, other women on the ward try to comfort her, each with a strategy for bearing up under suffering which Mary finds unacceptable because these strategies represent values about marriage, submissive gender roles, or religion which Mary cannot quite swallow.
Later, talking with her brusque surgeon and her family doctor, Mary learns that the mastectomy may not have been necessary, that the tumor was benign. At the end of the story, husband Matt hustles in to ask: "Well, baby, are you still going to divorce me?"
The narrator recounts the interview with his physician during which he learned the bad news about his lung cancer--although the word "cancer" is never mentioned. But the interview is marked throughout by signs of imperfect communication. At several points, the physician's grave remarks are matched by diffident, sometimes humorous responses.
For example, when asked if he is a religious man or a communer with nature, the narrator responds "I said not yet but I intend to start today." The culminating account of miscommunication is near the end: "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." The final line clinches the oddly blurred nature of the whole exchange: "I may even have thanked him habit being so strong."
These fourteen sonnets interweave themselves to form a unified work, just as lines are repeated or echoed to interweave in the individual poems, providing an account of the author’s experience of breast cancer, radical mastectomy, and recovery. The medical details appear more prominently in the early sonnets, but gradually, other themes take precedence: suffering and how to compare relative degrees of suffering among individuals and groups; the reaction of oneself and one’s lovers to a disfigured body; and the search for affirmation, for a reason to want to live and be rid of the horror of disease and death.