Pectoriloquy |


John Davis
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Editor’s Note: “The poem is a retelling of my experience with polio during the late 1950s. A recounting of the seemingly cruel practice of having boys wear shorts without regard to health concerns is not to be treated lightly.”

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2011;139(4):962. doi:10.1378/chest.10-0544
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No one would say it then so I’ll say it now:
young boys wearing shorts in 1950’s wintertime,
young boys bare-kneed, wool sportscoats, matching caps
and shorts—dumb idea. No wonder we rubbed
our knees in church pews. Was it when our body fat
finally reached 3% at age ten that we could
wear long pants and warm to the world?
Maybe Jesus was testing our will to survive.
No wonder I contracted polio on a snowy Sunday,
home from church in my wooly shorts
and my leg gave way to the floor.
No wonder the physical therapists warmed me
in stainless steel tubs, stretched my hamstrings,
stretched my quads, down ‘n in and down ‘n out
flexing with my feet, undo the numbing,
strengthen and strengthen and then to run
again, to roil among the forest leaves
warm, become a young man in long pants.




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