Correspondence to: Victor Howes, 137 West Newton St, Boston, MA 02118; e-mail: ETakino@aol.com
John Keats, March 1819
Why did I cough tonight? What makes me wheeze?
What common cold, uncommon, grips my throat?
No answer. What incurable disease,
What lurking bug of no known antidote,
What chicken flu binds me with mutant link
To feathered friends? What mad cow virus
Invades my blood? From what cause do I shrink …
Singapore SARS? A gene from Grandpa Cyrus?
And will I find philosophy enough
To friend me in my contest with the reaper,
To let me laugh, as young John Keats could laugh.
Whose cough was deep as mine, or even deeper?
Wind winnows wheat, but blows away the chaff.
Why did I cough? John Keats, why did you laugh?
Editor’s Note: This formal Shakespearean sonnet, unusual in poetry these days, was written by a retired professor of English. For readers of CHEST, both the subject of the poem and the fact that Keats died of tuberculosis make it aptly suitable for selection— Michael Zack, MD, Section Editor of Pectoriloquy.
The author has no conflict of interest to disclose.
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