Pectoriloquy |


James Sheahan Wilk, MD
Author and Funding Information

Correspondence to: James Sheahan Wilk, MD, 4545 E 9th Ave, No. 330, Denver, CO 80220; e-mail: jkandjwilk@aol.com

Editor's Note: James S. Wilk, MD, is an internist at Rose Medical Center in Denver, CO. He states of his poem: “One in two hundred American women suffers from anorexia nervosa and one in five of these die from its complications. The illness is a tragic waste of potential, as a once fertile field left fallow and turned to dust, and my poem focuses on this central idea.”

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP, Section Editor

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):1401. doi:10.1378/chest.08-2999
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From the outside, I see no heretic,
no witch, no bitch now burning at the stake.
I see a fertile field stricken by drought.
My fingers scamper down the crevices
of her neck, spider-like, across the gullies
between the muscles, formed as fat receded
in some sick parody of glaciation,
leaving behind the lumpy soil of lymph
nodes, salivary glands, windpipe and thyroid
traversed by pipes for irrigation—veins
and arteries—yet still this land is barren
but for lanugo, powerless to stop
erosion by the wind, the breath, the ruach.
I palm the stethoscope's unfeeling head.
Fingers trace the furrows of her spine,
parting the fine lanugo hairs that bristle
like wind-blown grass effacing the once deep
ruts of a packed dirt trail across Nebraska.
Her ribs are furrows, breasts prairie dog mounds.
I auscultate, the stethoscope a snake,
slithering, pausing, listening below.
Without the muffling fat, everything's loud:
the trochaic machinations of the heart,
the slow iambic rhythms of the lungs,
the free verse borborygmi of the bowels.
The pager breaks my trance. I leave to write
a note of the encounter, order labs
and artificial nourishment by vein.
I sigh, reminded of the psalmist's words:
Their soul abhorreth all manner of food;
and they draw near unto the gates of death.
I hurry to keep my dinner reservation
but pause outside her door to glimpse the girl,
a fallow field half-naked on the bed.
Fluorescent lights, unmoving in their coffins
in the ceiling, whisper light across the dust
bowl of her belly, casting angular
and ominous shadows of trochanters
and tubercles from the bones she'll leave behind.




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