Showing 571 - 580 of 721 Poetry annotations

A Story about the Body

Hass, Robert

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short prose poem (a single paragraph) concisely tells a powerful story. A composer at an artist's colony believes he has fallen in love with a woman of almost sixty, a Japanese painter. One night, late, at her door, she acknowledges their mutual desire, but warns him that she has had a double mastectomy. He leaves her, apologizing. In the morning he finds that she has left a bowl on his doorstep, filled with dead bees covered by a layer of rose petals.

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Old Ladies' Home

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem's omniscient speaker describes the inhabitants of an "Old Ladies' Home" with bleak and dehumanizing detachment. In the first of the three seven-line stanzas, the fragile elderly women appear "like beetles" who "creep out" of the institution's buildings for the day. Their habits and relationships are observed in the second stanza: knitting, and children who are "distant and cold as photos," with "grandchildren nobody knows."

Presaging the arrival of death in the last stanza, the ladies wear black, "sharded" in it, but even the "best black fabric" is stained red and green by age. In the evening they are called in by the nurses, "ghosts" who "hustle them off the lawn" to their beds, which resemble coffins, and where Death waits.

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Grief

Williams, C. K. (Charles Kenneth)

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet grieves over his mother's death, "Gone now, after the days of desperate, unconscious gasping, the reflexive staying alive . . . . " He records the details of her dying, the details of his pain. He wonderingly asks himself, "Is this grief?" upon realizing that he is not making a scene, nor crying, nor wishing to follow her in death.

He realizes, though, that his grief is not just for his 80 year old mother who died in bed with make-up on her face, but for his mother-in-law's face and all women's faces and "the faces of all human beings, our own faces telling us so much and no more, / offering pain to all who behold them . . . . " His grief is grief for the earth, the flesh, the body, the mind, "and grief for the moment, its partial beauties, its imperfect affections, all severed, all torn."

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A Litany in the Time of Plague

Nashe, Thomas

Last Updated: Jul-02-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Despite its provocative title, this lyric never refers directly to a plague or epidemic, unless both the inevitability and the social indifference of death could be deemed "plagues" in themselves.

The litany of the title is a catalogue of the inability to escape death--the rich, the beautiful, the strong, the witty-- have no extraordinary claim to immunity. Like the poet whose refrain reads, "I am sick, I must die. / Lord, have mercy on us, " the reader is encouraged to "welcome destiny," as he mounts to Heaven, his heritage.

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On My First Sonne

Jonson, Ben

Last Updated: Jul-02-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Ben Jonson wrote this elegy after the death in 1603 of his eldest son, Benjamin, aged seven. The poet addresses the boy, bidding him farewell, and then seeks some meaning for his loss. Jonson blames himself, rhetorically at least, arguing that he hoped too much for his son, who was only on loan to him. Now that the seven years are up, the boy has had to be returned.

Jonson tries to argue that this is only fair and his presumptuous plans for the boy's future were the cause of his present sense of loss. He then questions his own grief: why lament the enviable state of death when the child has escaped suffering and the misery of aging? He cannot answer this question, simply saying "Rest in soft peace" and asking that the child, or perhaps the grave, record that his son was Jonson's "best piece of poetry," the creation of which he was most proud. He concludes by vowing that from now on he will be more careful with those he loves; he will be wary of liking and so needing them too much.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Several of these poems deal with pregnancy and childbirth. “The Womb Is the Body's Most Powerful Muscle” celebrates a woman's knowledge of her own body just before she gives birth. In “The Birthing Room” Krysl describes the pulse and atmosphere of a midwife-attended birth. “Midwife” is an ecstatic poem about the power and “connection” of midwifery. Other poems in this collection take an ironic, comic view of the human condition (“Feet,” “Skin”), or reflect on issues of human dignity in the health care setting (“Quadriplegic: the Bath,” “Burn Patient”).

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The Blindman's Song

Rilke, Rainer Maria

Last Updated: Jun-08-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem, written in German, appears in both German and English in this and other versions. Those who understand German may feel that something has been lost in translation, inevitable for rhyming poetry. Nevertheless the "endless outcry" of isolation and bitterness is well expressed. This blind man is totally unresigned to his condition; "every day I despair." He feels himself uniquely cursed. He mocks those who are sighted for believing that THEY might be special and he is contemptuous of any kindness shown him: no one can understand how he feels.

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Plums and Ashes

Moolten, David

Last Updated: Jun-08-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

David Moolten's poems demonstrate the medical (and poetic) virtues of simplicity, clarity, skillful observation, and attention to meaningful detail. They reveal and transform the poet's experience--from "a brief Christmas display / Of bells and lights" when he feels the silence of his father's joy "as I pull out the Lionel / Strangled with tinsel . . . " ("Freight"), through a call from the rehabilitation hospital during which his shattered brother "cried like static into the phone" ("'Cuda"), to "The Night" in which the poet stares through the window of memory at his and his wife's younger selves and tries "to whisper in their ears / They don't know where they're going" as they "lean into each other / Like two hands shielding a small flame . . . . " Among the other particularly appealing poems in this collection are "Chemistry Set," Motorcycle Ward (see this database), "Voyeur," "1968," and "Omission."

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Medicine Circle

Bascom, George

Last Updated: May-20-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the fifth, and final, collection of poems by the surgeon-poet, George S. Bascom, who practiced for over 35 years in Manhattan, Kansas. The poems cover a wide range of topics in a variety of forms, ranging from free verse to sonnet. Many of them are concerned with the poet's medical experiences, both as physician and as patient. The poems arising from Bascom's own illness with prostate cancer are among the most effective in the book; these include, among others, "Operation," "Carpe Diem," "I With My Death," "Notice," "Metastatic Disease," "Progression," and "Medicine Circle." "Gloris," "Post Op," "7-2-59," and "Lydia" are fine evocations of patients and patient care.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The poems in this collection celebrate many of the patients Dr. Schiedermayer has encountered in his practice, and what they have taught him. Most of the poems are vignettes of patients or narratives of medical encounters. The poet begins by "rummaging / with my hand / at the bottom" of his medical bag ("Black Bag"); he needs something more than the usual instruments. He writes wryly about Ricky ("Skin for Ricky"), a 30 year old man with cerebral palsy, who has normal human desires and aspirations; and compassionately about "A Poet Benefactor," who is suffering from breast cancer.

As Dr. Schiedermayer notes in "Amputation," his first serious lesson in medicine is "what you must lose." You must certainly lose a sense of invulnerability--but by becoming vulnerable to your patients' stories, you may also become a source of healing. In the end he gives thanks "for more love than I deserve."

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