Pectoriloquy |

Calling Back 3 Patients FREE TO VIEW

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP
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Editor’s Note:Dr Zack is a pulmonologist in Massachusetts. He has won many poetry awards, authored 3 books of poetry and several hundred poems published in numerous poetry journals. He is Poetry Editor of Pectoriloquy in CHEST. About the poem he states: “I was struck about how we sometimes need to converse in the idiom of the patient, different languages, though all English.”

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

Chest. 2014;146(3):869-870. doi:10.1378/chest.14-0031
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—Hi, it’s Dr. R…How can I help you?
My cough came back.
—Do you want that same medicine?
Yup. Can you refill it?
—Yes, Same drug?
—4 times a day?
—Take as needed only.
—One refill?
—Did it work last time?
Yup, but the cough came back.
—So you want to refill it?
—Same as before?
—Anything else?
Nope, just that medicine.
—Picking it up today?
Today is fine.
—I’ll write for 4 ounces.
Good; same as before?
—Same as before.
Feel better.
—Hi, it’s Dr. R…How can I help you?
My cough came back.
—OK what’s it like?
Well I don’t want to exaggerate;
it is certainly not like what Keats had in Rome,
treated as he was with a diet of anchovy and a piece of daily bread.
Hemorrhaging blood, they even bled him on top of that.
All he wanted was some opium,
not really to end his cough, which after all was
tuberculous, but really to kill himself.
No, my cough is more irritative, reflexive to humors coming in,
like the cough of Dylan Thomas,
which was of course worsened by New York smog and irish whisky,
his ACTH injections and the morphine
—I see. It sounds to me more like a hybrid of Kafka’s laryngeal cough
and Rousseau’s prolific catarrh.
Yes, exactly.
—OK, I’ll call in a prescription.
Feel better.
—Hi, it’s Dr R…How can I help you?
Doctor, thank God you called.
I have the most ungodly cough again.
God knows I prayed and prayed it would
never come back like, you know,
Rita’s did. It wakes up the angels at night. It blasts
trumpets to the heavens. So now
I pray to God I won’t get pneumonia
like my brother-in-law had.
I’ve tried everything. Oh my God,
nothing’s worked, I coughed all
during the service this morning,
had to leave early, in front of my
so religious sister-in-law…
I was wicked embarrassed, God forgive me.
—I see.
By God do you mean the detached transcendent demiurge of
Aristotle or the pantheism of Spinoza?
I mean the ontological spiritualism
of Aquinas and Augustine, yet also nurtured
by Islamic neoplatonism.
—I understand, that’s helpful.
I’ll call in a prescription.
Feel better.




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