Marc J. Straus
Showing 1 - 6 of 6 annotations associated with Straus, Marc
Summary:Not God is a "play in verse" with two characters, a hospitalized patient and the patient's doctor. The scare quotes indicate the fluid quality of Not God, which the author originally conceived as a sequence of poems spoken in a patient's voice. Subsequently, he added the doctor poems (monologues) to create a "dialog" between the two voices. Once again, scare quotes suggest the atypical quality of this dialogue, since the two characters express different feelings and perspectives on the situation, but do not directly address one another. The play version has received several performances at colleges and small theaters.The patient speaks first in a monologue that begins "A man's cough bounces down the hallway / like pick up sticks... " and ends with "I am here two weeks." (p. 7) It soon becomes evident that he/she has cancer and is receiving chemotherapy. The doctor has changed this person's life by speaking "one word," after which "nothing / would ever be the same again." (p. 10). The patient is knowledgeable, accepting of his/her condition, a keen observer with a good sense of humor, as in "Doldrums" (p. 19) and "Cricket" (p. 23), and a person who affirms life in spite of adversity. The doctor is burdened with the power of medical knowledge. In particular, he understands the deadly meaning of signs and symptoms: "We say / excess water and swelling of the belly, knowing / full well... / an ovarian cancer is almost certain." (p. 33) But the meaning this represents is chaos: there is nothing humane or transcendent about cancer. Unlike his baseball card collection in childhood ("Shoebox," p. 35), cancer is neither confined nor orderly. In the second act, the patient sympathizes with the doctor whose "head is so cluttered / with obligatory data." Paradoxically, the doctor must be protected because he is "filled with dying." (p. 41) The doctor becomes angry with the burden, "Why / ask me a question that only God can answer?" (p. 49) and cries out that his work is "alchemy, / potions and witches' brews." (p. 54) In the end, while dying, the patient imagines "a bridge that can cross / the Atlantic." (p. 68), while the doctor speaks a prayer, "The word cure, dear God, is always / near my lips, though I have been constrained from / saying it aloud." (p. 66)
Summary:In this collection (80 pages), Marc Straus speaks of the inadequacy of communication and knowledge in medicine; the pauses, the distance, the hesitations. You think you know what you are doing, "But no, they always ask the question / I never knew." ("The Log of Pi") "The question / might be so simple, so clear / that you’re unprepared to answer." ("Questions and Answers") Though words are in one way inadequate, the medical word carries great power: " . . . I knew that moment / I would say one word for her and nothing / would ever be the same again." (One Word, annotated in this database.)The poet comes to understand that he represents both sides of medicine, both the detached and distant Dr. Gold, and the warm and trustworthy Dr. Green. (See annotation of Dr. Gold & Dr. Green) Unfortunately, this knowledge only comes about after the patient has died ("Dr. Gold & Dr. Green, II"). We learn from experience, sometimes too late.
Summary:The speaker reflects that "life is sometimes reduced / to a single word . . . . " He remembers one incident at a bus stop, another interviewing a man "for a job in my lab." Then there was the time a woman "walked / into my office for one thing . . . . " He discovered a "fullness" in her neck and knew that the word he would say to her, the one word, would change her life: "nothing / would ever be the same again."
A poem in a patient’s voice. He brings "a minor issue" to the doctor’s attention, something so trivial he ought not mention it. The doctor sees so many more important problems, like John Butler who "had a terrible / case of prostate cancer." He went downhill so quickly, unlike the patient’s mother who "died of old age / the way it should be, just pooped out . . . . " She didn’t have "the big C." In any case, the patient’s problem "probably / isn’t much of anything. Don’t you agree?"
In this poem a patient speaks to "Dr. Green," commenting on how much she likes him compared to her earlier doctor, "Dr. Gold," who wore a long face and would never smile. "Dr. Gold has track shoes on" but to Dr. Green she says: "You never seem / to be in a hurry even // though you're so busy . . . . " The patient would like "a little rest / before the next treatment, at least till / I'm stronger."
In the companion poem, "Dr. Gold & Dr. Green, II" (also found in One Word), the physician responds to his patient, Eleanor, who presumably wrote the first poem. He realizes that he himself is actually Dr. Green and Dr. Gold. Even though he tries to spend time with his patients, he now realizes that sometimes he must have appeared hurried and distant: "You tried / to say that each of us has two sides. / I wish I understood this before you died."
Summary:Sometimes communication is best served when it doesn't communicate baldly and precisely. In this 12 line poem "a daughter comes in late / and you don't say exactly what you feel . . . ." You tell a patient "the x-ray showed / little change, knowing they won't ask / if the lesion's a little smaller or larger."