Showing 571 - 580 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack
Uncle Jimmie is slowly dying of cancer, "the rat that gnawed away behind his ears." Jimmie believes that cancer is part of nature and must, at some level, be accepted. At first he permits surgery--they removed his ear and cheek and upper lip--but he eventually concludes, "Stop cutting . . . let / me go to earth and snow and silver trees." However, Aunt Flo will not let him go; she reads St. Paul and prays for his recovery.
Next the surgeons remove Uncle Jimmie’s tongue (without his consent?), but his eyes "kept pleading: Stop the cutting, let me go . . . ." So then they removed his eyes. Finally, "a specialist / trimmed away one quarter of his brain ... " Jimmie is left with no memory, lying in bed among his tubes, while Auntie Flo "comes every day / to read to bandages the Word Made Flesh, / and pray, and pay the bills . . . . "
This poem is in the voice of a faith healer who calls upon the reader to witness the marvels of God's healing power, a holy power that shows the terrible evil embodied in the theory of evolution: "Darwin's demon apes of hell / howl the name of blasphemy." The narrative centers on a young boy with diabetes, whose father brings him to be healed. He and his father prayed and their faith grew strong; "he threw away the pills, those ugly / relics of his doubt-- / and the boy cried out, rejoicing!"
Later, though, during the night, the boy became ill again and begged his father for the pills. But the congregation prayed and the father's faith held . . . and the boy died. The healer rejoices, though, because "he is not dead--the boy / only sleeps in the Lord." The healer believes the child died because " Darwin's great beast" rose that night and "passed his hand over the boy's / sick faith."
This long poem tells a story within a story. The framing story is Charles Darwin falling asleep and thinking, "as he always does, of animals . . . . " His dream turns into the story of the Deluge and Noah and his ark. Poor Noah is a bumbling 600 year old man, who much against his own inclinations, is told by God to build the ark and, later, to stuff it with a pair of every kind of animal. Well, Noah's sons think this whole project is stupid, but they eventually go along with it.
The most difficult part was finding and capturing the animals, two of every species, including in the end, "sixteen thousand hungry birds / lusting for the eighteen hundred thousand insects, / and the twelve thousand snakes and lizards / nipping at the seven thousand mammals, / and everyone slipping and sliding around / on the sixty-four thousand worms / and the one hundred thousand spiders--." When the deluge began and the waters rose, the ark floated past all the desperate, dying people, until the last woman "holding her baby over her head" went under "and God was well pleased."
Summary:Miss Gee wants to be a good girl and keep "her clothes buttoned up to her neck." Time goes by. Finally, she gets on her bicycle and goes to the doctor about "a pain inside me." The doctor diagnoses cancer. Later, over dinner, he comments to his wife that "cancer's a funny thing" that attacks "childless women" and "men when they retire."
Summary:A woman named Kitty calls the doctor and reports that her husband has died. "Can you come over?" she asks. At the house he finds that the husband has been shot in the head. It is evident that the wife has killed him. The doctor reflects that Kitty "held the record for most abused woman in Taylor County." He remembers how many times he has seen her badly beaten by her husband. In the end he decides to "play God." He calls the police chief and reports the death as a "clear" suicide.
Summary:This short (10 line) poem presents a simple scene. A man leaves the hospital, carrying a woman's coat. "Clearly she would not need it." The weather is mild for December, but the man has zipped his coat, "preparing / for irremediable cold."
Summary:This poem is in the surgeon's voice. He surveys his country's terrain, "a garden I have to do with--tubers and fruits / Oozing their jammy substances . . . . " He delves into the patient's organs, "I worm and hack in a purple wilderness." He admires the sunset-colored blood and the "blue piping" that conducts it through the body's intricate maze. When he removes a part of the body, it is sent to the lab ("a pathological salami") and "entombed in an icebox." The surgeon walks through the ward, casting his eyes on the sleeping patients: "I am the sun," he says, " . . . Grey faces, shuttered by drugs, follow me like flowers."
Summary:The insomniac looks at the sky ("a sort of carbon paper") and "suffers his desert pillow." Projected in front of him are his life's embarrassments and bad memories. "He is immune to pills." He listens all night to "invisible cats . . . / howling like women." The sun rises, the city awakes, and people everywhere "Are riding to work in rows, as if recently brainwashed."
Summary:The poet stands in the Protestant Cemetery at Rome, beside the grave of John Keats, on which the epitaph is written: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." The poet addresses the cemetery ("Fair little city of the pilgrim dead"), commenting on the beauty of the place and of its music: "Sing in the pure security of bliss." Yet, even this serene place cannot comfort the poet, who has inherited "the anguish of the doubt / Writ on this gravestone."
Summary:The speaker is poor, homeless, and desperate. The place is Minnesota, the season winter. He cries out, "I am a full-blooded Sioux Indian." He is about to go hungry and "to leap barefoot through gas-fire veils of shame . . . . " Yet, the man acknowledges, "my life was never so precious / To me as now." He will learn anything, do anything, be anything, for the sake of his precious "secret, / My life."