Showing 21 - 29 of 29 annotations associated with Coulehan, Jack
This collection, Jack Coulehan's 5th, contains 69 poems, almost all of them published previously in medical journals or poetry magazines. Earlier versions of several of the poems also appeared in 3 of his 4 previous collections, The Knitted Glove, First Photographs of Heaven, and The Heavenly Ladder. The book is divided into 6 sections, all (except for After Chekhov), titled after one of the poem's found within the section: Deep Structures, All Soul's Day, After Chekhov, He Lectures on Grace, Levitation, and Natural History. Many of these poems express the tension between order and disorder, the expected and unexpected, and the tenderness and steadiness needed to care for others and our natural world. These works call the reader to open up to the deeper meaning and compassion necessary for the struggle to remain human while caring for suffering humanity.
Jack Coulehan’s fourth poetry collection brings together new and previously published poems in a well-organized and handsome volume. As a reader who has long followed this author’s career, I found some of my favorite poems here (Irene, "Lima Beans," "For Oysters Only," "Six Prescriptions," "Sir William Osler Remembers His Call on Walt Whitman," "Cholera," and Medicine Stone) as well as compelling newer work: "The Shoe," "Work Rounds: On Lines by Tomas Transtromer," "Definitions," and "Decatur in Winter."
The collection is divided into three sections: the first presents poems about "doctoring" and, a Coulehan trademark, poems from a patient’s point of view; the second is a remarkable assembly of Coulehan’s poetic commentaries on Chekhov’s life and writing; the third features poems about a variety of personal relationships.
Summary:A patient expresses his anger and frustration with the physicians who are treating him. A recovering alcoholic, he feels particularly sensitive to what he perceives as the doctors' self-righteousness, and imagines how he would get even with them.
In this five-stanza free verse poem the speaker, a physician, observes the patient, a young man dying of cancer and suffering pain in the arm he has lost to the disease. The patient watches television, and sees the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of D Day, the Allied landing in France in World War II. The old soldiers, the war veterans, are enviable for the "honor" provided by the source of their losses and injuries, the sense of meaning that comes from winning a war, which is so unlike the arbitrary and passive suffering of cancer in which, as the speaker says, there's "no honor."
The patient has asked whether a scan would explain the pain in his phantom limb; the physician muses that a scan is the wrong place to look, not just because there is no arm to scan, but because what the cancer patient really lacks is a story which can make sense of and justify his misery. The veterans have such a story. Although they are aging and have suffered, the speaker longs to give his patient "their battles," the sense of significance and value (a story recognized by the whole world, as the TV broadcast indicates) which cancer lacks.
The poet plays with the "D's" of D Day: "deception, danger, death," are all inherent in the world, but seldom accessible to confrontation as they are in war (to this extent war is like the scan, making the sources of pain visible and so manageable). A fourth "D" is added, for "deliverance," implying that the "old men's stories" of battles and victory compensate for their suffering in a way that nothing can for the cancer patient.
The Heavenly Ladder is physician-poet Jack Coulehan's most recent chapbook, bringing together 48 poems, many of which have been published individually in various medical journals and literary magazines. The collection is divided into four sections.
Poems in the first section, "Medicine Stone," are written in the voice of patients or in the voice of the physician who treats them. The second section, "So Many Remedies," consists of five poems inspired by physician-author Chekhov. The poems of "The Illuminated Text" section reflect a wide-ranging interest in people who lived in distant times or in distant places. The final section, "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo," stays, for the most part, closer to home and includes a number of poems addressed to, or about, family members.
Coulehan speaks to the cadaver (Ernest), beginning with factual observations about his damp face and beard. He then becomes confessional--in fact, by directly paraphrasing the traditional Catholic formula of confession ("Bless me, father, for I have sinned . . . "). He implores the cadaver to reveal himself, to yield the truth of his condition.
In the last stanza, the tears of conjunctival irritation (formaldehyde) become tears of sorrow "for all offenses / to the heart . . . " and "for the violence / of abomination . . . . " Cutting up a corpse is an "abomination," but one that must be accepted and transcended in order to gain the power to heal. In the end, the tears become life-giving rain on the canyon wall.
Summary:The narrator of this poem is the father who is dying. He takes all kinds of pills in different colors which he identifies, perhaps correctly, as poisons. He knows he is dying and so does his son, who brings him his medicine and "sees poison in my eyes." The last few lines are especially touching: "He wants to take my hand, but he's / afraid. That's two of us. / For heart I take a white one once."
Summary:This remarkable poem notes the contrast between the mechanical, technologically manipulated heart today (without faith or spirit) and the mysterious, spirit-creating heart of Riverius. In the days of Riverius, the heart created spirit which "descended like dew" into the body and "ascended like steam" into the head--"how souls and bodies blended!" But now all mystery and spirit are gone. Cadaver-cutting scientists made an ox of the heart which pumps "the blood in dispirited circles" (note the wonderful use of "dispirited").
Summary:This poem is narrated by a physician (probably a young resident) trying to keep Alabama alive ("my stern professor . . . frowns at my attempts to stoke the boiler in her chest.") But Alabama wants to die and whispers to him "Let me go." The physician-narrator, however, is completely committed to keeping her alive, slapping her and saying, "Dammit, Live!"