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The Birth, appropriately, is the last of the three birth-cycle poems in The Annals of Chile, Muldoon's latest collection. The three together (all annotated in this database--see Sonogram and Footling) celebrate three aspects of the gestation and delivery of the poet's new daughter.
Beginning with the poet's donning a scrub suit ("lime-green scrubs"), the poem quickly explodes into a festive pyrotechnics that reminds one of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Joyce: ". . . the windlass-women ply their shears / and gralloch-grub / for a footling foot, then, warming to their task, / haul into the inestimable / realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons / and eel-spears. . . . "
It takes courage and skill to carry off such a verbal tour de force but Muldoon aptly does so, charging the poem with the newness, sheer power of wonder, and joy of loving a thing for itself that his daughter's birth means to him. This is a joyous poem that can almost visibly demonstrate to students how poetry gets its job done. It may even make more than a few try their hand.
Originally a three-part series in the New Yorker, this is an account of McPhee's six months of observing rural family doctors in Maine. It is both an engaging portrait of a kind of family practice increasingly rare in America, and implicitly an argument that those involved in professional medicine consider the tradeoffs in choosing between urban, high-tech, specialization and rural family practice where they know whole families in the context of community over time.
The narrative, based on interviews with physicians, some patients, and observations of clinical encounters, follows the daily routines and decision-making of several rural practitioners who consciously chose against the more lucrative, prestigious option of urban private practice, specialization, or academic medicine.
Angelou’s four stanza poem is narrated by an elderly person, probably a woman. In each of the stanzas, the proud and forthright speaker dismisses the desire to stay alive. She sizes up her circumstances pragmatically--the inconveniences and disabilities. She can no longer bother with the print that has become "too small," the food that is "too rich," the tiring concerns of her children, and, finally, the weariness of life. Each is addressed in its own stanza, but the concluding refrain is the same; she will give up reading, then eating, then listening--and then life. "Today," she says rather convincingly in her final line, "I’ll give up living."
Summary:Paul Muldoon is one of Ireland's most prominent poets. He is a poet's poet, celebrating language, Irish culture and Ireland in almost every word. In "Footling", "Sonogram" (the preceding poem), and "The Birth" --all from his latest collection, The Annals of Chile--Muldoon is apparently chronicling the recent growth of his family in a poetic triptych of power and inventiveness. "Footling" describes the seeming reluctance of the poet's daughter to venture forth and breach the "great sea-wall" in order to "take a header" into the great "ground swell (italicized) of life." See this database for annotations of Sonogram and The Birth.
The story begins with Dr. Frank Rapallo's son recalling his father's funeral and then progresses with a series of vignettes that show us who Dr. Rapallo was and how he died. Rapallo was an old time doctor who loved his work and whose patients told him "everything."
The boy was only seven when his father had radiation treatment for a cancer of his shoulder; subsequently, he had surgery to try to save the arm, but this left a hole "big enough to fit my hand." The hole never healed. He lost the arm anyway, but continued to perform operations with the assistance of Matthew, his young Japanese partner. The son reflects on his father's experiences in World War II--he was profoundly moved by the destruction in Japan and by the courage of Japanese physicians.
A strong, dedicated doctor, Rapallo was painstakingly honest, both with his patients and himself. In the end, he developed an incurable infection in his incurable wound. With characteristic dignity, Dr. Rapallo set about doing his last things--seeing patients for a few hours, visiting with his old friend Finch--and then in the evening took the contents of the vial he had prepared, and died.
A young farmer's mother is dying. The farmer, Honore, is concerned about his mother but he is even more concerned about getting his wheat in before the rains come. He is prepared to leave her to die alone, but at the insistence of the doctor agrees to hire Mother Rapet to tend his mother. Mother Rapet is an old washerwoman who supplements her income by watching the dying and preparing them for burial. La Rapet offers to work for Honore for a daily wage. Honore refuses, for he knows how obstinate his mother is and fears she will take a long time to die making La Rapet's services expensive. He insists on a set rate and La Rapet eventually agrees.
After three days, the mother still has not died and La Rapet realizes that she is losing money. Taking matters into her own hands, she tells the dying woman that at the moment before death everyone sees the devil. She then wraps herself in a blanket, puts a pot on her head, and throws a pail across the room making a huge noise. The dying woman thinks she is the devil and struggles to leap out of bed; instead, she collapses on the floor, dead.
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:Virginia (Olivia de Havilland) marries Robert (Mark Stevens), but she soon becomes profoundly disturbed and her caring husband sends her to a psychiatric hospital. Using Freudian techniques combined with physical modalities of electroshock and isolation, her psychiatrist (Leo Genn) leads her to overcome her amnesia and to understand that her illness is the result of unresolved yet misplaced feelings of guilt over a boyfriend and her father. Just before Virginia is happily restored to Robert, the asylum patients are gathered together at a hospital party where they sing of their yearning for home.