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."


The author describes this work as a "casebook." Unlike the usual casebook of medical write-ups or summaries, these poems are illuminations that allow us to "see" the persons or re-live the incidents they describe. As with any such collection, the poems tell us as much or more about the author as they do about their subjects. Thus, the book is also a portrait of Dr. Schiedermayer as he goes about his work as a physician and ethicist. One of the book's most attractive features is the frequent use of irony and humor--the work of healing should not take itself too seriously.



Place Published

Tucson, Ariz.



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