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Pectoriloquy |

Half-Open Secrets FREE TO VIEW

Askold Ihor Skalsky, MA
Author and Funding Information

Correspondence to: Askold Ihor Skalsky, MA, Hagerstown Community College, Humanities, Hagerstown, MD 21742; e-mail: askoldskalsky1@verizon.net


Editor's Note: Askold Skalsky, a Ukrainian by birth, has taught English and German at a community college in Western Maryland. He writes of this poem: “There seemed a connection between how people lived their lives and the physical maladies from which they suffered. As impressive as the results of modern medicine have been, those results cannot do the whole job and need to be complemented by so-called intangibles of attitude and spirit.”

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP, Section Editor

Editor's note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy: Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.

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


© 2009 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2009;135(5):1400. doi:10.1378/chest.08-2334
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Published online

We were worried—at sixty-two
the business may have been too much
for him—the nausea, the bloated tiredness,
the loss of appetite, the episodic cramps
around the lower abdomen.
Dressed in his impeccable brown suit
and slim with West Virginia jokes,
always talking of better buys,
decorating the living room, the loft,
he bantered through the social afternoons
with habitual unconcern.
Did we imagine a glint of apprehension
in those hazel eyes, the mourning
of a marriage three years gone,
the traces of obsessive jealousies,
the ceaseless seeking after women
(always younger, always newly minted
in their fleshly joys)?
A spastic colon, said the doctors,
malabsorption somewhere in the liver's lobe,
enzyme deficiency, who knows?
Maybe a parasite or two,
the ulceration of intestine walls.
That sent us to the symptoms book,
the columns methodically arranged—
“Diagnostic Measures,” “Complications,”
“Outcomes, Probabilities,” and
the “How to Treat” section, in particular.
It all seemed reassuring in its clarity
of print, the rubrics neatly formatted,
the diet noted—increased fiber,
decreased stress—and most especially
the medication column:
antispasmodics to relieve the cramps,
a tranquilizer to reduce anxiety.
One note intrigued us.
“See Appendix 25,” it said.
The print was smaller here,
the paragraphs less organized,
the bullets squeezed.
We read about the impossibility
of separating the body from the mind,
something about the spirit
was there too, about researchers
unable yet to understand
these links, themselves as yet
poorly delimited.
And then some brief advice,
almost obscure in its simplicity—
help from family, from friends,
pleasure in work,
humor whenever possible.
Define your conflicts, said the paragraph.
Seek equanimity, be moderate.
Give and receive love.


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