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Pectoriloquy |

A Map of the Body FREE TO VIEW

Carolyne Whelan, MFA
Author and Funding Information

Editor’s Note: Ms Whelan lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she works as a part-time legal secretary and as a writing instructor at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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.

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2012;142(3):808. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2627
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Published online

Somewhere in Boston, the sky is falling
and two waitresses share a cigarette outside Bickford’s as they watch
the celestial epitaph crashing down on them and that’s where I want to be.
My ribs have been hurting for months now—
in particular that false ninth rib on my left, grasping from afar
for some stability, costal cartilage. And my back—
somewhere in the middle there’s a misrepresentation of clarity
it’s nauseating – I thought this seasickness was normal but
my guru wants to realign my spheres.
There are rats in the pantry, they run across my feet
into the kitchen and now even the dog is scared to go downstairs.
We hover in my attic office like spooks.
It could be a sign to move. All the aches, the uneasiness—
everyone moves to New York to be a poet but when I lived there
all I became was a lonelier Herman Melville, dreaming of home.
For such a small island, I was always incalculably far from sea,
the tide banging uselessly against walls of sound or sleep or static.
Frank O’Hara, save me now – ache out this rib, depressure my spine
into a glorious poem about fags in the morning,
the grunts of the train beneath our feet – it runs from me like a phantom limb.
Who said anything about the heart – home is where you
know what kind of language your body speaks when walking alone at night,
where pains are pigeon-holed merrily into something medical,
where a doctor can tell me I’m broken and I’ll believe her.


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