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Pectoriloquy |

Polio, a Memoir FREE TO VIEW

Michael Salcman, MD
Author and Funding Information

Baltimore, MD

Correspondence to: Michael Salcman, MD, 5501 St. Albans Way, Baltimore, MD 21212; e-mail: msalcman@gmail.com



Chest. 2008;133(4):1048. doi:10.1378/chest.08-0038
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Published online

In an apartment building filled with internal refugees,

a boy lies in the dark, an Emerson radio

beneath the sheets; time runs out tonight

listening to Carl Braun shoot the last shot

and miss. The Knicks reliably lose—

years before Reed, their center’s a guy

named Felix the Cat.

Against the boy’s cheek, the chill

of white-painted plaster on Seventh Street

cools his head bone like ice cream;

the dream in his chest sings with the heat

of the radio clutched to his belly.

At six he already knows it’s his ethnic duty to worry

about the future, to feel oppressed by time.

At thirteen, he will give what is left

as a doctor, one-legged fireman or Indian chief,

not sure if he can support his father’s old age

when one of his legs won’t support his own weight.

He feels lucky, lucky enough to breathe—

there’s no machine squeezing his chest, just doubt

pressing down with the rules of the game;

tomorrow it’s stick ball: I wonder

who will pinch run if he goes from home to first base

and whether it will count as a hit or an out.

Editor’s Note: The author writes: “I had polio at the age of 5 before the vaccine; it left me with a shriveled left leg which did not prevent me from being a good dancer, scuba diver or surgeon for more than thirty years. It was the attentiveness of my pediatrician that convinced me to become a physician.” Dr. Salcman was the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and is a widely published poet.

Michael Zack, MD Section Editor of Pectoriloquy


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