July 16, 2019

Jack Coulehan


For a thousand years, the nature of light
was a source of debate, a question
that split the learned, who wondered if sight
originated as a beam coming in
from outside-the sun-or as a substance
generated inside, a stuff we shoot
out, to bathe the world and its occupants?
Curious. I never knew of this dispute
until a patient, about week before he died
of cancer, told me the story of Ali
al-Hasan, the curious man who tried
staring into the sun for as long as he
could take it. When the pain became too sharp
to stand, he understood, but it was dark.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001


Jack Coulehan: “As an internist and medical professor, I didn’t know how to search for what was missing in life until poetry came along. And bam! There it was. When you take the time to really look and listen to the patients, it becomes obvious that there is a relationship between poetry and medicine, yet these two arts seem to be polar opposites in our society. Why is that? How can that be?”

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November 18, 2010

Jack Coulehan


My doctor’s not engaged enough
to touch my hand. I wonder where
her feelings are, the human stuff.

My doctor doesn’t take much guff
from wimps like me. Whatever care
she gages up, it’s not enough.

Detached concern is less than tough.
It’s thin and weak and pulses, bare.
The human feelings screw its stuff.

The pains I feel are fairly rough.
Detached, my doctor wouldn’t dare
engage them. They’re not clear enough

to measure with her scope and cuff.
Her brow is knit, her white coat there,
but touching isn’t—human stuff.

This illness wears me down. I slough
my hope in layers. Unaware,
my doctor’s not engaged enough.
She hides her feelings, does her stuff.

from Rattle #23, Spring 2005

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