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Pectoriloquy |

Oracle FREE TO VIEW

Patricia Caspers, MFA
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Editor’s Note: The author writes: “I wrote ‘The Oracle’ after my grandmother and aunt were diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, and while my mother and I were deciding whether or not to go for genetic testing. We’ve decided not to be tested. For now.”

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;140(3):824. doi:10.1378/chest.10-2208
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Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be
        able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. –Rilke
What if an oracle
lived at the end of your street
in a wonky red house with yellow trim,
a taffy-striped tabby named Kismet dozing on the stoop.
Huntington’s Disease: A devastating, hereditary, degenerative brain disorder
for which there is, at present, no effective treatment or cure.
Would you wander through the snarl of wisteria
to take tea, bring a basket of August tomatoes
or a bucket of spring hydrangeas?
Would you court her prophecies?
Huntington’s slowly diminishes the affected individual’s
ability to walk, think, talk and reason.
In the kitchen, she reminds you of someone you used to know,
waving her arms fiercely to fill in the blanks.
That’s the way with oracles, you guess, thinking of Oedipus
and the details his priestess left out.
Eventually, the person with Huntington’s
becomes totally dependent upon others for care.
And what if this wise woman let it slip
that your brain’s cogs will dull and seize one day.
Stairways will become as foreign to you as Istanbul,
where perhaps you would like to travel
while there’s still time and equilibrium.
Each child of a person with Huntington’s has a fifty percent chance of inheriting the fatal gene.
Everyone who carries the gene will develop the disease.
But now it’s time for the crone to sleep.
She’s already said too much, shooing
you through the front door. She clicks the bolt
and waves goodbye through the glass while you stand
in the bright evening, mouthing the future.


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