Showing 61 - 70 of 70 annotations contributed by Davis, Cortney
A 199-page collection of twelve essays by undertaker and poet Thomas Lynch, superficially about his mortuary trade, but actually about much more--life and death; the process of mourning; how we human beings pass though our common lives with grace or desperation; how the graveside ritual serves memory, family, and society. In the preface, Lynch says that early on he came to understand that the undertaking trade he would inherit from his father had little to do with what was done to the dead, but everything to do with how the living responded to the deaths of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.
Particularly outstanding essays include "The Undertaking," in which Lynch divulges the practical and emotional secrets of his trade as he buries Milo, a man who owned a Laundromat; "Crapper," a humorous, rollicking essay that demonstrates our modern society's inability to deal either with the thought of dying or the actual dead body; "The Gulfatorium," a flight of fancy about building a graveyard in a golf course, but really about the nature of suffering and the afterlife; "Mary & Wilbur," about neighbors, about our fear of death and our impulse to memorialize; "Uncle Eddie, Inc.," about an uncle's "clean-up service" that sanitized rooms after messy suicides and about the natural order of life and death and the moral implications of our manipulation of that order through assisted suicide, abortion, and genetic manipulation. My personal favorite is the final essay, "Tract," in which Lynch says how he wants his own death and burial to be managed, how he, a witness to our final rituals, wants to be witnessed.
This collection's first section contains eight poems that address AIDS. "Inventory," a listing of the author's acquaintances who have died of AIDS, catalogs a variety of responses to this illness. Other poems are stark portraits of death in progress ("Waste Not," "Photo") as well as evidence of the love and coping skills a diagnosis of AIDS elicits ("Althea," "In Time of Plague," "Sonnet Positive"). "The Review" ironically compares a popular movie about AIDS to its reality: in the movie, family members do not flinch from kissing their infected son.
The second section addresses coming out as a Lesbian ("In the Duchess"), domestic violence ("Beatings"), and Lesbian sexuality and relationships ("Hunger" and "Want"). "My Body" is another effective "list" poem, a catalog of the female body and how its physical dimension becomes the visual history of a life "healed and healed again."
The final eight poems examine the difficult relationship between a daughter and her dying mother. The book comes full circle as the "swift river" (death from AIDS) of the book's opening poem becomes the "cold river" the speaker now swims in, a metaphor for internalizing a mother's "bitter edge" as well as the accumulated deaths of friends and lovers ("Cold River").
"To Spirit," "Journey," and "Here" regard the daughter's deathwatch over her mother. The remaining five poems serve to balance loss and hope, especially "Legacy," in which the narrator accepts how age is transforming her own body into her mother's, "her scared eyes shining in triumph."
In this complex poetry collection (divided into three sections, "Body," "Home," and "World"), the author moves from the specifics of the individual diseased or dying body to the more universal realm of suffering and politics. Not so much a poet of narratives as a conjurer of images, Levin writes from changing points of view: first as a man, then as a woman; as a surgeon, then a patient.
Poet Louise Glück's introduction states that the book's power "derives from ambiguity: the raised scalpel-healing that looks like assault," and Levin's raw imagery is indeed both challenging and celebratory. In the opening poem, "Lenin's Bath," we watch with Dr. Sergei Debov as Lenin's corpse is tenderly submerged in a vat of embalming fluid. Debov imagines the germs that crawl along the cadaver "seeking a way in."
In the next poem, "Eyeless Baby," the reader becomes a caregiver searching a deformed infant's face that is nothing but a single nostril and a cleft palate. In "Bathhouse, 1980," we see (as the blind baby cannot) through a young homosexual man's eyes both the human longing for passion and the viral "scourge" that, again, seeks entrance. The angels that gather in the bathhouse's corner become nurses ("The Nurse") who swarm like moths over a hospitalized patient's body.
This interweaving of place and point of view continues throughout, creating a magical, disturbing world in which a reader can be both body ("The Baby on the Table") and healer ("In the Surgical Theatre"). Other powerful poems include "Personal History," "The Beautiful Names" (in which a young boy learns to name the sexual organs and so discovers their beauty), and "Witness."
This stark and sensual poetry collection is divided into three sections. The first, "Graveyard Shift," introduces the narrator's themes: the keen observation of suffering; the questioning of God's role in such suffering; the way caregivers and patients meld in shared moments of trauma; the struggle to integrate the reality of death and grief into a life outside the healthcare arena.
A longer second section, "Lessons," contains a chronology of poems that broaden the poet's themes. Suffering becomes personal through sexual abuse ("The Burning"), death of a baby ("To the Woman in the Next Bed," "Waiting Room," "Last Lullaby for the Dead Child"), and breast cancer ("Keeping Watch"); the mystery of God's role becomes the narrator's religious quest.
The final section, "The Ones Who Come," opens these themes to the universal: children and adults lost to "the holocausts" of war, poverty, and illness ("Lizard Whiskey: A Parting Gift from Viet Nam," "After the Siege," "The Ones Who Come," "The Man Who Stays Sane"), and how history repeats these cycles of birth, suffering, and death.
This novel is the fictionalized account of author Thomas Moran's real-life experience as a patient with disseminated chicken pox. During his five months in hospital, much of that time on a ventilator, Moran experienced "coma visions" and near death which he retells here through his alter ego, James Blatchely, a man who struggles to remain emotionally alive in spite of the virus's physical assault. Blatchely does this by observing, befriending, and then fantasizing a life for his two Irish nurses--Brigit who, he discovers, uses drugs to endure the pain she witnesses daily in Intensive Care, and Nuala, with whom he falls in love.
Through the depiction of Blatchely's erratic, inching descent toward death, readers gain visceral insight into a patient's encounter with critical illness--but the real heroes of this book are the nurses. We observe them through Blatchely's eyes, and they are the force that enables him to survive, if not in body, at least in mind. This beautifully written novel creates a world in which both patients and caregivers are fully human, bound together by their shared experience of the patient's illness and by the life the imagination enjoys when the body cannot.
This pocket-sized book contains stories from the home front--poems about patients the nurse-author tends in their apartments and in her clinic. Often, the patients speak, teaching us not only what it's like to be elderly and lonely, but also how to view mainstream healthcare from a different perspective.
Most important, we learn about the courage with which these patients cope with illness and poverty, and how nurses honor their patients' choices through non-judgmental caring. Outstanding poems include "The Language of Hearts," "Passages," "Lower Midline Surgical Scar," "The Screamer in Room 4," and "Home Remedies for the Blues."
Registered Nurse, Muriel Murch decided, at mid-life, to return to college to obtain her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). She relates this odyssey through a series of generous and quirky letters written to her mother, her children, her husband, and, most strikingly, her deceased Uncle Harold, whose memory serves as Murch's spiritual touchstone.
The book works on two levels. Her struggles as an older woman and already-experienced nurse in a BSN program are delightfully detailed in letters to friends, but to Uncle Harold she reveals the turbulence of her quest: how at mid-life she must rethink her role as wife and mother and view patient care from a new perspective.
In my dreams, now, in my re-imaginings, I leap away as easily as a deer, and with as little hesitation. My spandex-covered legs scissor the ditch, and my feet ride the ground instinctively. My brown hair sways as I dart off into the forest . . . In real life, I got into the truck. (p.25)
A young woman retells the story of her rape--to herself, to the reader, and to a therapist who possesses "no startling answers--just a quiet ability to receive and transmute pain." The art of transcending pain through communication is at the heart of this story. The narrator survives by talking to her rapist and challenging his human core, by revealing everything to caregivers, by allowing herself to replay and dissect the details of this trauma.
This anthology presents a selection of poems from the hundreds that have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The poets are physicians, nurses, patients, technicians, lay caregivers, and family members; their poems "display the many ways people have of perceiving, conceiving, and coming to terms with what unsettles us." A sampling of titles hints at the variety of topics--occasionally humorous and often startling--that are examined in this slim volume: "Tinnitus," "Dear Left Knee," "Thoughts of a Nurse Returning to the Base Camp at Cu Chi," "Lovesickness: a Medieval Text," "Since the Accident," "Body Language: 5 East, NIH."
This poem of nine four-line stanzas reveals a father's observations as he sits in a support group for parents at the psychiatric hospital where his daughter is a patient. The poem moves from the nervous small talk shared by the parents to the half-heard sounds of a tennis match outside to the "hot potato" of pain that the parents, through their stories, pass around, bringing the reader into the immediacy of the blame, grief, and disbelief that these parents share. In this environment, words fail: "I don't know anything / That can help us all. Words alone / (How many words there were!) have come unstrung // And scatter everywhere."