Showing 1 - 10 of 72 annotations contributed by Donley, Carol
Summary:Children wasting away, in pain, infected with parasites whose life cycle continues "bodies to fingers, / fingers to lips, of lips to eggs / and eggs to worms." That cycle is echoed in the human experiences of "loneliness to pangs of loss" and of "deep escape to deep connection." The actual parasites take on symbolic significance and become the worm that inhabits us all, whether we be sick kids or weary health care providers.
Summary:Father reappears 28 years after deserting the family and living like a "tumbleweed"--playing bit parts in movies and drifting around alone. The son finds him strapped into a chair, drooling into a cup, dying of a lung disease. His father tells him, "A loner’s like a tumbleweed; / he breaks off, blows away, dries up."
Summary:The extraordinary image of a six hundred pound man, spread across two beds, dying, whom the doctor might at first find to be grotesque, is transformed in the doctor's dream. In that dream he sees the man as the center of a ceremony in which healers "wrestle the souls of old bodies back to bones . . . back back to their beginnings." The doctor comes to realize that this "worthless and alien" body is beautiful.
Summary:Pale, gaunt children from the backwoods hills of Kentucky bring their stool specimens to school so the visiting physician can check for worms. But these sinewy kids come from a long line of leathery ancestors "bred from one tough root"--and they keep on surviving whether they have worms or not. They "shall inherit" the earth, whether or not physicians treat them.
Summary:An African nun, in Pittsburgh, identifies with her home country of Uganda, envisioning the brutality of the civil war, torturing her father and murdering her brother. Her body is like her country--"frightened / delirious / insensate / and holy." Sleepless, she sits on the edge of her bed and prays--"her prayer is sweet, sweet medicine" both for her own distress and, somehow, for her country’s.
Summary:The son narrator of this poem has asked his Jamaican physician-father a number of questions. His father is a great healer, saving thousands of his countrymen through medicine, surgery, and preaching. Although the "Queen receives him in London and gives him the Empire", his father knows how useless that is, and "puts the British Empire into a drawer of memories." All that London pomp and ceremony is a different world from Kingston, "Smoldering under the weight of tin and grease." The father's vision is of "Jerusalem, a black city full of his sons."
Summary:This poem is told in the voice of the quack who creates electronic gadgets that are supposed to cure illnesses. He advertises on the back covers of magazines. Poor, desperate people, whose doctors cannot help them, sell their farms in order to come to the quack for his dynamizer and oscilloclast treatments. He asks, "What could I do but give them hope?"
Summary:A blind father, covered with dust, rides through dust clouds carrying camera equipment belonging to a famous photographer of the West. The father believes that each piece of dust has a soul and that if he can sensuously perceive that dust he can release its soul--"Blessings of dirt, gathering and rising"--a kind of resurrection out of the dust.
Summary:This poem compares the grave robbing done in the 19th century in order to provide cadavers for medical training and research with the modern medical technologies that "rob" the dead of their rest by keeping them alive on machinery. Now the medical profession is "resurrecting" people before they're dead--delaying their deaths with machinery and drugs. "We cheat the dead of dying, with machines instead of spades." This poem also comments on the use of poor people who don't have the power to prevent this kind of denial of their rights.
Summary:A nurse-poet well-known for her empathic descriptions of patients, Cortney Davis suddenly found herself in the hospital bed with a life-threatening condition. Although she is a masterful writer, she could not find words to capture what she experienced as a patient. Instead, she started painting her emotions—fear, suffering, and loneliness expressed through color, line, and tone. The first of 12 paintings in this pathography shows her lying naked on a white slab, not literally what happened but expressive of how vulnerable and helpless she felt. Each of the 12 paintings carries an emotional and spiritual truth—often raw and miserable. Davis accompanies each painting with a brief commentary about how and when the painting was done, explaining, for instance, why some of the figures have no facial features. But the vivid paintings speak for themselves, and they add a different way of knowing not available through words.