Showing 601 - 606 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

A Day in the Death

Williams, Miller

Last Updated: Feb-22-1994
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A man lies dying in his hospital bed, "amazed how hard it is to die" and how long it takes. A nurse looks in, he tries to sleep, he smells "the cheap / perfume Death wears." He wants to die, but "Something's stuck." He almost asked a counsellor to "Give me a shove." He is afraid that when the sun rises again, he will still be there, alive, in "that shrinking bed . . . another day."

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A Flat One

Snodgrass, W.

Last Updated: Feb-22-1994
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Snodgrass writes about an old veteran who took seven months to die. The voice in the poem is that of a hospital attendant who provided some of the tedious, technical care that kept Old Fritz alive all that time. Though Old Fritz's "animal" may have "grown / sick of the world," his "mind ground on its separate / way, merciless and blind." He endured, he kept on living. Old Fritz raged against death, although he also "whimpered" and cried "like a whipped child . . . . "

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The Autopsy Room

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Dec-01-1993
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry — Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In the first stanza the speaker describes his experiences cleaning the autopsy room at night. Sometimes they left corpses or parts of corpses out on the table. Once they even left a woman's leg (he'd "seen them before").

At home, though, the speaker was so distracted by these experiences that he'd sit with his eyes closed, or stare at the ceiling, rather than interacting with his wife. He was distant and cold; she tried to warm him. His "fingers strayed to her leg. / Which was warm and shapely . . . . " But what about the woman's leg on the autopsy table? He ends with the paradox, "Nothing / was happening. Everything was happening." Life and death, beginning and end, warmth and coldness, closeness and distance, feeling and the denial of feeling: all are part of the whole.

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Autopsy

Stearns, Samuel

Last Updated: Dec-01-1993
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this avuncular poem the "recently alive" do their thing--lie "spread and silent / on the dented sink"--while the "aproned doctors" do their thing--"cut and weigh, / measuring / the diagnosis." The poem models the distance that sometimes develops between doctors and their feelings; the doctors insulate themselves from feelings. Contrast this with the protagonist of Carver's poem, The Autopsy Room (see this database; also annotated by Felice Aull).

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Fear of Gray's Anatomy

Galvin, Brendan

Last Updated: Dec-01-1993
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The author will not open Gray's Anatomy again. Why? Because he sees in its plates of various organs mundane images, rather than the personal knowledge he imagined. He had "hoped someday to own" himself, but he finds that his "geography" is composed of others' names and others' history. The author is not there. You can't discover who you are by learning the parts you're made of. Or can you?

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Dr. Cahn's Visit

Stern, Richard

Last Updated: Dec-01-1993
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An elderly, demented Dr. Cahn ("his mind had slipped its moorings years ago") is taken by his son to the hospital to visit Dr. Cahn's wife who is dying of cancer. They hold hands. She is touched and pleased that he has come, but sad at his inattention as his mind wanders. In the taxi on the way home, Dr. Cahn asks, "Are we home?"

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