- Shafer, Audrey
- Date of entry: May-31-2001
August is divided into two sections: "On the Corner of Fourth & Irving" and "To Marie Curie." The narrator, on a street corner in San Francisco near the teaching hospitals and medical school of University of California, San Francisco, meditates on the recurrence of lymphoma in a patient. Evening is approaching, fog blows in from the ocean, and the city pigeons are unsettled--landing and taking flight.
The meditation includes a tribute to Madame Curie and her discovery of the effects of radium. The patient had had a good chance of cure by radiation treatment--unfortunately, this patient is in the twenty percent who are not cured. The narrator, probably a physician-in-training due to the load of textbooks, had read the patient's chest x-ray as negative (normal) previously.
By the end of the poem, we learn that the physician had felt enlarged lymph nodes in this patient's neck today and he bluntly states: "I have failed. He has not been cured." The poem closes with the sound of the wind and the "beating and beating of wings."
North American Review 285/6 (Nov/Dec): 26-27 (2000)