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Pectoriloquy |

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Sue Blaustein, Environmental Health Specialist
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Editor’s Note: The author writes, “I had rheumatoid arthritis and got really sick since I didn’t tolerate methotrexate or Remicade. Humor helped break up the apathy from feeling miserable and exhausted day after day.” Sue Blaustein is a food safety inspector for the Milwaukee Health Department.

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


Chest. 2015;147(3):863-864. doi:10.1378/chest.14-2103
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Little Max, I’m so short-ranged.
   So dense. The dog
eloquence of your urine is wasted on me.
Still you rise on hind legs in a circus pose,
   settle at my feet, and I feel clean.
Today’s early September breeze is fine.
   The clarity of light helps me
perceive and perceive and perceive –
the blending of your brown, black and white
hairs, the way your ears respond, creased at times
   like paper boats. I see patterns – a tan
stripe down the underside of your tail
   expanding to a loopy trident
   at the base. The center tine
divides your balls – your unabashed
   and humorous balls.
* * * * * *
   Humor, Max. Humor.
Some people persist on faith. But you’ve
got to have humor, and it’s obvious – you have the knack.
You should see yourself – asleep on your back,
faintly snoring in the plush dog bed!
   Maurice, of all people, nudges me –
wants me to look without waking you.
Your rear legs are splayed and the front ones
stick up, bent at the hocks – ebony nails pointing
at your belly. You’re like a cartoon, Max.
   You remind me of the carrots.
* * * * * *
See, last year I got rheumatoid arthritis.
   The pain from my swollen joints
was yellowish, blaring – almost nauseous.
Then the meds gave me pneumonia, with fevers
   and anemia. At night that summer,
I woke almost every hour. My pillows were soaked
with sweat. My mouth was sticky and dry,
   yet I dreaded sitting up
   to reach my water. My wrists
and elbows were sore, so I had to heave up from
the hip – I couldn’t press the mattress without gasping.
   The lurch upright brought on a wild
   tachycardia. And that thumping –
the anarchy in my chest – brought on fear.
   That’s something I couldn’t get out
from under, Max. I was afraid one of those times
   my heartbeat wouldn’t settle.
Afraid I’d never be well again.
* * * * *
   One night I gave up on sleep,
and limped across the hall to the computer. There was
mail from my sister – Subject: Obscene carrots.
   I clicked it open. The screen filled
with an orange host of un-sellable carrots,
shaped like genitals and fat, crossed legs. They looked
unconcerned, sturdy – sporting root hairs and dirt.
   Those ridiculous, lewd roots almost winked!
   Max, I laughed and laughed, though
laughing uses oxygen. Because who ever knows
what comes next? I wasn’t healed – in fact
I ended up in the hospital – but for the first time
   in weeks I felt clean.


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