Imagine What It's Like

Imagine What It's Like: A Literature and Medicine Anthology

EDITED BY RUTH NADELHAFT
WITH VICTORIA BONEBAKKER
Copyright Date: 2008
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqn02
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    Imagine What It's Like
    Book Description:

    The intersection of wisdom and science is the territory of this anthology-ground that is contested, sometimes harrowing, and often ennobling.

    The human experience of health care, whether ancient or modern, has always engaged those who practice it and those who encounter it as patients. Both those who live with illness of body and mind, and those who live and work alongside the patients, crave the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. In recent years, practitioners and patients alike have called attention to a crisis in our collective experience of medicine. There is a growing awareness of very different cultural expectations about the nature and treatment of illness.

    The intersection of medicine and the humanities is busy. Machinery seems to crowd the space, while human encounters are often brief and deeply unsatisfying to patients and caregivers alike. Despite disparate approaches to the crisis in health care-from economics to ethics-there is agreement that patients and the world of medicine need more time together, so that illness does not find expression only in the context of the emergency room.

    It is as a response to the collective sense of crisis and alienation thatImagine What It's Likehas been constructed. Inside and outside the health care community, many have called for the chance to use the humanities not only as opportunities to reflect on their own experiences, but also as a means of improving the experiences of all of us whose lives will be touched by illness and healing, birth and death.

    Created by the Maine Humanities Council for its Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care programs,Imagine What It's Likecontains eighty-three selections ranging from poems to short stories to excerpts from longer works. The selections are divided into five sections-The Experience of Illness, Beginnings and Endings, Trauma and Recovery, Coming to Terms, and Healing Costs-and are followed by suggestions for longer readings.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6291-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. General Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Robertson Davies, the great Canadian writer, asked in an essay derived from a speech he delivered to an audience of medical specialists, “Can a Doctor be a Humanist?” His eventual answer was “Yes,” but only, he thought, if the doctor returned to the domain of thewisdomof humanities from the world Davies called theknowledgeof science. Davies spoke and wrote within a long tradition; health care and humanities have long been perceived as vital to one another and yet on different paths. A necessary but still imagined intersection of medicine and the humanities has always been richly populated....

  5. SECTION ONE THE EXPERIENCE OF ILLNESS
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-6)

      Acute illness, pain, the suffering which invades mind and body, take place in what seems an eternal present. Past health and future recovery vanish as the borders of the body disappear. A vast loneliness replaces, apparently forever, the comforting awareness of relationship, community, belonging. It requires supreme imagination and discipline, apparent in the seventeenth chapter of Darcy Wakefield’s book chronicling the progress of ALS throughout her body, to remember back to the time before.I Remember Running, the title of her book, invokes the past to imagine a future. Where then is literature? And what can literature offer the sufferer...

    • MUSÉE DES BEAUX ARTS
      (pp. 7-7)
      W. H. AUDEN
    • OF TRAINING
      (pp. 8-16)
      MICHEL EYQUEM DE MONTAIGNE

      It is difficult for reasoning and instruction, even though our belief be readily accorded to them, to be powerful enough to guide us as far as action if we do not, in addition, exercise and train our mind by experience to the course for which we wish to prepare it; otherwise, when it comes to the point of action, it will doubtless be at a loss. This is why those among the philosophers who are ambitious to attain to some greater excellence were not content to await the rigors of Fortune under shelter and in repose, lest she should surprise...

    • INNOCENTS ABROAD
      (pp. 17-24)
      ROBERT LIPSYTE

      My own journey began with a vague ache in my right testicle, which seemed larger and firmer than usual. I began touching my right testicle so often to check if the swelling had gone away and it became a habit, a tic. In the beginning, I would touch it only when I happened to be in a bathroom, but soon I made visits purely for self-exams. So many journeys to Malady seem to start this way, undramatic distant warnings, a tingle in a joint, shortness of breath, a fleeting chest pain after running for a train.

      When I couldn’t keep...

    • APPLICANTS
      (pp. 25-38)
      FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMAN

      There were books about job interviews. There were books about college interviews. But for this interview, I was on my own. Of course, I could use some of what I had read.

      LOOK YOUR BEST. I had slept with my hair braided, and now it was wavy and soft. My little mirror showed a heart-shaped face (appropriate), large light-blue eyes, skin maybe a trifle pale, but except for the bluish tinge of my lips, I thought I looked almost more like a movie invalid than the real thing. Hard to decide about makeup, though. The books said it should be...

    • THE CAST-AWAY
      (pp. 39-41)
      WILLIAM COWPER
    • DEJECTION: AN ODE
      (pp. 42-46)
      SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
    • DOCTORS
      (pp. 47-48)
      ANNE SEXTON
    • THE WALL
      (pp. 49-50)
      ANNE SEXTON
    • THE POET OF IGNORANCE
      (pp. 51-52)
      ANNE SEXTON
    • CLEANING Early February 2004
      (pp. 53-55)
      DARCY WAKEFIELD

      Before I got ALS, I didn’t know what it was. Now, after several months of research, I know more about it than I’d like to know. I know, for example, that ALS is an orphan disease. According to Hope Happens, an organization dedicated to funding research for ALS and other neurological diseases, an orphan disease is any disease that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States at any given time. Their Web site also claims that there are 6,000 orphan diseases that affect 25 million Americans, and that pharmaceutical companies and biotechs rarely pursue treatment of these diseases...

    • IN KAFKA’S HOUSE
      (pp. 56-69)
      LEONARD KRIEGEL

      Like nightmares, private terrors bind themselves to our sense of the possible. The imagination’s violence is inflicted by the mind upon itself. And when that violence is made visible, we stand in dread as terror is transformed into reality.

      Ever since I took sick with polio at the age of eleven, I have been terrified of waking up one morning to discover I am once again helpless. I am not talking about the prospect of stroke or heart attack or cancer. No matter how life-threatening, ordinary illness is simply among the risks one takes by having been born and growing...

    • HOMAGE TO ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER
      (pp. 70-77)
      SUSAN FROMBERG SCHAEFFER

      It so happened that she began to worship Isaac Bashevis Singer. She was afflicted with a high fever that would not go down. It rose to 103 degrees in the mornings and evenings and then dropped to normal. When her fever was high, she shook all over; when it dropped, she felt healthy as a horse, but tired. The doctor said she had to go to the hospital. She said she was sure she could shake it off at home. She could take her aspirins herself. She would set her alarm to ring every four hours. Besides, one of her...

    • SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW
      (pp. 78-91)
      CONRAD AIKEN

      Just why it should have happened, or why it should have happened just when it did, he could not, of course, possibly have said; nor perhaps would it even have occurred to him to ask. The thing was above all secret, something to be preciously concealed from Mother and Father; and to that very fact it owed an enormous part of its deliciousness. It was like a peculiarly beautiful trinket to be carried unmentioned in one’s trouser-pocket,—a rare stamp, an old coin, a few tiny gold links found trodden out of shape on the path in the park, a...

    • A SENSE OF THREAT
      (pp. 92-107)
      JANE LAZARRE

      I am trying to understand one experience by what it shares with another. Patterns come to me, clusters of memories that seem to belong together, and I cannot, simply for the sake of ease or sequence, keep them apart. Old memories of the months preceding and the early years after my mother’s death when I was seven years old. A panic attack I experienced when Khary was attending a semester abroad, months before the cancer cells won their battle with my immune system and hardened into a tumor. And chemotherapy, which so frightened me I could write neither the word...

    • HOSPITAL
      (pp. 108-108)
      MOLLY HOLDEN
  6. SECTION TWO BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 109-110)

      The beginnings and endings of human experience provide some of the most evocative writings we have, speaking across generations and challenging caregivers to pay attention to the uses of memory. In its most direct form, the brief and anonymous poem, “Let Us Have Medicos of Our Own Maturity,” testifies to the self-awareness and sometimes the frustrations of the aging mind and body in an ever-changing world of practices and practitioners. In a discussion of Shakespeare’s monumental study of age and the disintegration of family,King Lear, members of a reading group focused on the rebellious daughters; in their thirties and...

    • MILK
      (pp. 111-125)
      EILEEN POLLACK

      How many nurses cared for her needs? The first dressed Bea’s wound, a puckered red mouth silenced with staples. A second nurse brought her a cup of chilled juice to wash away the sour taste in her mouth. A third nurse, a man, massaged her sore back.

      Then a fourth nurse came in, a small dark-haired woman with a pen in her curls. She knelt beside Bea’s bed and covered her feet with paper slippers, then helped Bea to stand and shuffle to the bathroom. Bea’s bladder was bursting, but everything below her waist was so numb that nothing came...

    • THREE GENERATIONS OF NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN’S BIRTH EXPERIENCE
      (pp. 126-130)
      JOY HARJO

      It was still dark when I awakened in the stuffed back room of my mother-in-law’s small rented house with what felt like hard cramps. At 17 years of age I had read everything I could from the Tahlequah Public Library about pregnancy and giving birth. But nothing prepared me for what was coming. I awakened my child’s father and then ironed him a shirt before we walked the four blocks to the Indian hospital because we had no car and no money for a taxi. He had been working with another Cherokee artist silk-screening signs for specials at the supermarket...

    • LABORS OF LOVE
      (pp. 131-143)
      RUTH NADELHAFT

      Forty-three years ago, at about nine in the morning, I awoke in a sopping wet bed; my waters had broken, and I was about to begin the labor that would give us our daughter, Erica. Our cat, Thomas, was sleeping on the suitcase I had packed a week earlier; the baby was a few days past the due date, and Thomas had become territorial about his spot on the red and black plaid nylon suitcase right outside our bedroom. We were excited and confused, stripping the bed, bumping into each other in our small bedroom, stopping to pet Thomas, finally...

    • I’M BORN A CROW INDIAN
      (pp. 144-151)
      FRED W. VOGET

      I was told that I began my life in a tent during our Crow Indian Fair held in October at Crow Agency in 1908. My folks were camped out in a tipi made of canvas. They moved to the fairgrounds and pitched their tipi across from the agency on October 26th, and I was born the next day. There was a hospital right across the way, but in those days Crows didn’t like to go to the hospital. They called the hospital “the sick peoples’ lodge,” and it was a strange place from which you might not come out alive....

    • THE SANDBOX
      (pp. 152-160)
      EDWARD ALBEE

      The young man . . . . . . . . . . . . 25.

      A good-looking, well-built boy in a bathing suit.

      Mommy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55.

      A well-dressed, imposing woman.

      Daddy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60.

      A small man; gray, thin.

      Grandma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86.

      A tiny, wizened woman with bright eyes....

    • THE ENDURING CHILL
      (pp. 161-180)
      FLANNERY O’CONNOR

      Asbury’s train stopped so that he would get off exactly where his mother was standing waiting to meet him. Her thin spectacled face below him was bright with a wide smile that disappeared as she caught sight of him bracing himself behind the conductor. The smile vanished so suddenly, the shocked look that replaced it was so complete, that he realized for the first time that he must look as ill as he was. The sky was a chill gray and a startling white-gold sun, like some strange potentate from the east, was rising beyond the black woods that surrounded...

    • RAPPACCINI’S DAUGHTER
      (pp. 181-202)
      NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

      We do not remember to have seen any translated specimens of the productions of M. de l’Aubépine—a fact the less to be wondered at, as his very name is unknown to many of his own countrymen as well as to the student of foreign literature. As a writer, he seems to occupy an unfortunate position between the Transcendentalists (who, under one name or another, have their share in all the current literature of the world) and the great body of pen-and-ink men who address the intellect and sympathies of the multitude. If not too refined, at all events too...

    • BLACK MOUNTAIN, 1977
      (pp. 203-205)
      DONALD ANTRIM

      When my grandfather was in his seventies and I in my twenties, we created one of those friendships that are sometimes available between non-consecutive generations in broken or unhappy families. This friendship was brokered, however inadvertently, and as so many are, by a third party who functioned largely as an object of worry and distress—common cause and a bond between the new friends. The third party was my mother, my grandfather’s daughter, a woman whose lifelong pursuit of death was, arguably, a response to severe mishandling by her own mother, my grandfather’s wife, a women who in her later...

    • LET US HAVE MEDICOS OF OUR OWN MATURITY
      (pp. 206-206)
      ANONYMOUS PATIENT
    • HELLO, HELLO HENRY
      (pp. 207-207)
      MAXINE KUMIN
    • THE LAST WORDS OF HENRY MANLEY
      (pp. 208-210)
      MAXINE KUMIN
    • WHAT REMAINS
      (pp. 211-219)
      EMMA DONOGHUE

      She hasn’t asked for me in two months. I check with her nurses, though it’s a little humiliating. “Has Miss Loring by any chance asked for me?” I say. Lightly, as if it doesn’t matter either way.

      That’s what they call her: Miss Loring, or sometimes Frances. She’s not Queenie to anyone but me.

      I wheeled myself in to her room today. She was lying there like a whale ready for the axe. “Queenie,” I said, “it’s me. It’s Florence.” Which sounded absurd, as I’ve never had to tell her who I am before, she always knew. What a pass...

    • A SUMMER TRAGEDY
      (pp. 220-227)
      ARNA BONTEMPS

      Old Jeff Patton, the black share farmer, fumbled with his bow tie. His fingers trembled and the high stiff collar pinched his throat. A fellow loses his hand for such vanities after thirty or forty years of simple life. Once a year, or maybe twice if there’s a wedding among his kinfolks, he may spruce up; but generally fancy clothes do nothing but adorn the wall of the big room and feed the moths. That had been Jeff Patton’s experience. He had not worn his stiff-bosomed shirt more than a dozen times in all his married life. His swallowtailed coat...

    • ELEGY
      (pp. 228-229)
      DYLAN THOMAS
    • DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
      (pp. 230-230)
      DYLAN THOMAS
    • AND DEATH SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION
      (pp. 231-232)
      DYLAN THOMAS
    • A REFUSAL TO MOURN THE DEATH, BY FIRE, OF A CHILD IN LONDON
      (pp. 233-234)
      DYLAN THOMAS
    • THE SMILE WAS
      (pp. 235-240)
      DANNIE ABSE
    • DELIVERY
      (pp. 241-250)
      TOI DERRICOTTE
    • HOMELESS
      (pp. 251-252)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • SON, AFTER THE ATTEMPT
      (pp. 253-253)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • THE FIRST TIME
      (pp. 254-255)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • ROYALLY PISSED
      (pp. 256-256)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • NEST
      (pp. 257-258)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • THE STRUGGLE
      (pp. 259-260)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • THE PERMISSION
      (pp. 261-262)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • IN A RUSH
      (pp. 263-264)
      JULIET S. KONO
    • THE WAY
      (pp. 265-266)
      JULIET S. KONO
  7. SECTION THREE TRAUMA AND RECOVERY
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 267-268)

      In recent years, medical and cultural understanding about the nature of trauma has evolved; a number of recent, full-length studies, notably including Judith Herman’s well-received book,Trauma and Recovery, illuminate the lasting effects of trauma—of all sorts of trauma, from childhood sexual abuse to trench warfare. In an age of repeated genocidal conflicts, the lasting effects of torture and ferocious conflict must be addressed in communities far from the original location of trauma. Neurologists report on lasting changes in the brains of those who have survived trauma, suggesting that the connection between mind and body is tangible, not metaphoric....

    • THE STEEL WINDPIPE
      (pp. 269-275)
      MIKHAIL BULGAKOV

      So I was alone, surrounded by November gloom and whirling snow; the house was smothered in it and there was a moaning in the chimneys. I had spent all twenty-four years of my life in a huge city and thought that blizzards only howled in novels. It appeared that they howled in real life. The evenings here are unusually long, and I fell to daydreaming, staring at the reflection on the window of the lamp with its dark green shade. I dreamed of the nearest town, thirty-two miles away. I longed to leave my country clinic and go there. They...

    • THIS RED OOZING
      (pp. 276-277)
      JEANNE BRYNER
    • A JURY OF HER PEERS
      (pp. 278-294)
      SUSAN GLASPELL

      When Martha Hale opened the storm-door and got a cut of the north wind, she ran back for her big woolen scarf. As she hurriedly wound that round her head her eye made a scandalized sweep of her kitchen. It was no ordinary thing that called her away—it was probably further from ordinary than anything that had ever happened in Dickson County. But what her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for leaving: her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour sifted and half unsifted.

      She hated to see things half done; but...

    • BETRAYAL OF “WHAT’S RIGHT”
      (pp. 295-310)
      JONATHAN SHAY

      We begin in the moral world of the soldier—what his culture understands to be right—and betrayal of that moral order by a commander. This is how Homer opens theIliad. Agamémnon, Achilles’ commander, wrongfully seizes the prize of honor voted to Achilles by the troops. Achilles’ experience of betrayal of “what’s right,” and his reactions to it, are identical to those of American soldiers in Vietnam. I shall describe some of the many violations of what American soldiers understood to be right by holders of responsibility and trust.

      Now, there was a LURP [Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol] team...

    • THE DAY MY FATHER TRIED TO KILL US
      (pp. 311-335)
      PAT STATEN

      Nightmares have plagued me all my life. When I was young, ten or earlier, I began to look on them as a natural ailment I must learn to accept. Just as some people were born deaf or lame, I was born with nightmares (I wisely concluded). Actually, they were so much a part of my life, so routine, that I rarely thought about them at all or questioned why I had them. As I got older the nightmares at least decreased in frequency, though not particularly in intensity.

      When I was small I would wake up in the old Kansas...

    • WHAT I SAW FROM WHERE I STOOD
      (pp. 336-347)
      MARISA SILVER

      Dulcie is afraid of freeways. She doesn’t like not being able to get off whenever she wants, and sometimes I catch her holding her breath between exits, as if she’s driving through a graveyard. So even though the party we went to last week was miles from our apartment in Silver Lake, we drove home on the surface streets.

      I was drunk, and Dulcie was driving my car. She’d taken one look at me as we left the party, then dug her fingers into my front pocket and pulled out my keys. I liked the feel of her hand rubbing...

    • MENDING
      (pp. 348-356)
      SALLIE BINGHAM

      On Fifth Avenue in the middle fall, the apartment buildings stand like pyramids in the sunlight. They are expensive and well maintained, but for me their grandeur stems not from the big windows with the silk curtains where occasionally you can see a maid dusting with vague gestures but from the doctors’ names in the ground-floor windows. Some buildings have bronze plaques for the doctors’ names beside the entrance door. Whether those doctors are more magical than the ones who are proclaimed in the windows is one of the puzzles I amuse myself with as I ply my trade up...

    • TORTURE
      (pp. 357-372)
      JEAN AMÉRY

      Whoever visits Belgium as a tourist may perhaps chance upon Fort Breendonk, which lies halfway between Brussels and Antwerp. The compound is a fortress from the First World War, and what its fate was at that time I don’t know. In the Second World War, during the short eighteen days of resistance by the Belgian army in May 1940, Breendonk was the last headquarters of King Leopold. Then, under German occupation, it became a kind of small concentration camp, a “reception camp,” as it was called in the cant of the Third Reich. Today it is a Belgian National Museum....

  8. SECTION FOUR COMING TO TERMS
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 373-374)

      Hundreds of years ago, the great English poet Alexander Pope wrote of “this long disease, my life.” As diagnoses, treatments, and prognoses become more sophisticated, and as some of our most dreaded conditions become chronic rather than acute and terminal, the experience of living with disease has become more complex for patients and those close to them. The experience of illness is shared by families, and sometimes legions of professionals. Patients turn to sources of information outside of their immediate caregivers. Treatments have their own consequences; intimate human relationships bear witness to the strains of survival, remissions, duration without cure....

    • THE WORK OF TALK
      (pp. 375-403)
      MARIANNE A. PAGET

      Note from the editor [marjorie l. devault]: In the previous chapter, Paget reports on the performance based on Emilie Beck’s adaptation of her research article (Paget 1983a) and discusses her desire to write her own script, adapting the same analysis somewhat differently. Her script appears in this chapter.

      One of the ironies of performance in the social sciences is that it can enter our official discourses—our books and journals—only through its written traces. A script on a page can give only a suggestion of the immediacy and embodiedness of performance—the very features that make it distinctive in...

    • WITHOUT
      (pp. 404-405)
      DONALD HALL
    • ORINDA UPON LITTLE HECTOR PHILIPS
      (pp. 406-406)
      KATHERINE PHILIPS
    • THE MOTHER
      (pp. 407-408)
      GWENDOLYN BROOKS
    • ON BEING ASKED TO WRITE A POEM IN MEMORY OF ANNE SEXTON
      (pp. 409-409)
      MAXINE KUMIN
    • OCTOBER, YELLOWSTONE PARK
      (pp. 410-412)
      MAXINE KUMIN
    • PONIES GATHERING IN THE DARK
      (pp. 413-416)
      ANITA ENDREZZE

      The house was a forest remembering itself. The pine trees that held up the walls dreamed of stars dwelling in their needles. Jointed, branched, rooted, the trees still listened to the wind. The oak floors gleamed from the generations of human oils, but they still grew into their immense lineage of light and matter. The air between the ancient trees whispered with spirit bees and dark small birds.

      Even the iron that pierced the flesh of trees had a voice. It was deep, metallic, and sank heavily in the human dreams. At night, the iron spoke most eloquently, recognizing the...

    • CATHEDRAL
      (pp. 417-428)
      RAYMOND CARVER

      This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-laws’. Arrangements were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would meet him at the station. She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn’t enthusiastic about this visit....

    • ASHES TO ASHES TO ASHES
      (pp. 429-442)
      RUTH NADELHAFT

      Several months before his death, my father suffered one of his periodic attacks of angina; in pain and panicky, he chose to go to the hospital, insisting that I be with him in the examining room. My mother came along and worried in the waiting room. They were both hard of hearing by then, and he was especially fearful that he wouldn’t be able to understand what the doctors had to tell him. Since we’d been to the hospital for this kind of thing repeatedly, I was not entirely absorbed in the experience. After the initial flurry of attention and...

    • WISTERIA
      (pp. 443-447)
      LESLIE NYMAN

      A shudder of resistance shivered through me as I ran toward the old brick hospital. November’s icy rain had stripped the last of the wisteria from the vines covering the stone-gray building. In spring, when I began my nursing career, the smell of these purple flowers filled the air; now the chill dampness of late autumn drained scent and color into memory.

      Cold winds pushed me into the lighted entry hall where my coworkers, Alma and Rosy, were already shaking off the chill.

      “Ah, rain. No me le gusto, sí? I don’t like esta noche.”

      Alma chattered “Spanglish,” her concession...

    • PREMATURE ELEGY (A SEQUENCE OF POEMS)
      (pp. 448-455)
      FLORENCE ELON
    • REPORT FROM THE HOSPITAL
      (pp. 456-456)
      WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA
    • THE SUICIDE’S ROOM
      (pp. 457-458)
      WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA
    • IN PRAISE OF FEELING BAD ABOUT YOURSELF
      (pp. 459-459)
      WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA
    • ASTONISHING THE BLIND
      (pp. 460-465)
      JACK HODGINS

      I should have been practicing this afternoon, I should be getting dressed and ready to walk to the concert hall, but I have been sitting here for most of an hour with my hand by the phone, unable to pick it up. You’ll have some explaining to do, I’m afraid, when you’re asked “Has the daughter who lives in Europe called?” How will you explain that I haven’t? This letter will likely not get to you for a week.

      The clock in the Markt Platz should be striking six in the afternoon. Above it a rooster crows; beside it a...

    • PEOPLE LIKE THAT ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE HERE: CANONICAL BABBLING IN PEED ONK
      (pp. 466-490)
      LORRIE MOORE

      A beginning, an end: there seems to be neither. The whole thing is like a cloud that just lands and everywhere inside it is full of rain. A start: the Mother finds a blood clot in the Baby’s diaper. What is the story? Who put this here? It is big and bright, with a broken khaki-colored vein in it. Over the week-end, the baby had looked listless and spacey, clayey and grim. But today he looks fine—so what is this thing, startling against the white diaper, like a tiny mouse heart packed in snow? Perhaps it belongs to someone...

  9. SECTION FIVE HEALING COSTS
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 491-492)

      This last section, devoted to the many kinds of costs associated with giving care, is of necessity more capacious and inclusive than any other section. It is enriched by the contributions of caregivers working and writing inside and outside the institutions of health care. The voices of those who examine themselves as professionals, acknowledging their fallibility as well as their exhilaration, their lapses, and their delights, provide proof of the value of language and of forms of literature as means for experiencing these costs as well as describing them. Again and again, caretakers turn to literary forms for their own...

    • ADMISSION, CHILDREN’S UNIT
      (pp. 493-494)
      THEODORE DEPPE
    • THE ELEVENTH
      (pp. 495-497)
      HENRI BARBUSSE

      The Master, who had a pale head with long marble-like hair, and whose spectacles shone in solemnity, came to a standstill on his morning round opposite my little table at the door of Room 28, and condescended to announce to me that I was henceforth appointed to let in the ten poor people who every month were admitted to the hospitality of the House. Then he went on, so tall and so white among the assiduous flock of students that they seemed to be carrying a famous statuette from room to room.

      I stammered the thanks which he did not...

    • BAPTISM BY ROTATION
      (pp. 498-505)
      MIKHAIL BULGAKOV

      As time passed in my country hospital, I gradually got used to the new way of life.

      They were braking flax in the villages as they had always done, the roads were still impassable, and no more than five patients came to my daily surgery. My evenings were entirely free, and I spent them sorting out the library, reading surgical manuals and spending long hours drinking tea alone with the gently humming samovar.

      For whole days and nights it poured with rain, the drops pounded unceasingly on the roof and the water cascaded past my window, swirling along the gutter...

    • WHAT THE NURSE LIKES
      (pp. 506-508)
      CORTNEY DAVIS
    • Excerpts from The Hospital
      (pp. 509-520)
      JAN DE HARTOG

      How to describe the rapture of mercy? Like love, it is a state of ecstasy, universal and incommunicable, presenting itself to each individual in an utterly exclusive way. Compassion in action is as deeply emotional and all-transforming as love; it takes over your life, pervades your thoughts, makes your other activities and preoccupations seem secondary to that one overpowering urge: to help the helpless, to dispel darkness.

      Even as I write this, I find it acutely embarrassing. I reached intellectual maturity in an age that was obsessed by the compulsion to debunk the sublime. Irrevocably conditioned by the intellectual tradition...

    • A WOMAN’S WAR
      (pp. 521-533)
      FRANK T. VERTOSICK JR.

      “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”

      I repeated this mantra again and again as my wife fought to maintain her composure. Writhing in the throes of her increasingly ferocious uterine contractions, she labored with our first daughter as I watched, powerless to assist her. As chief neurosurgical resident of a large medical center, I could barely find a few idle hours in a day to sleep let alone participate in weekly Lamaze classes. One of our friends who had training as a Lamaze instructor gave us a crash course in natural childbirth techniques a few days earlier, but that brief exposure proved of...

    • MYSTERY AND AWE
      (pp. 534-552)
      RACHEL NAOMI REMEN

      In the corner of the basement of the brownstone where my Uncle Frank lived and had his medical offices, there was a battered wardrobe closet made of heavy cardboard. On Saturday mornings when I was quite small, I often played down there by myself, waiting for my father, who worked as my uncle’s X-ray technician. One day, more out of boredom than curiosity, I struggled to open the wardrobe door. The hinges had rusted. Inside, hanging from a hook, was a human skeleton.

      I was pleased. After examining it for a long time and admiring the beautiful shapes and ivory...

    • THE WOUND-DRESSER
      (pp. 553-555)
      WALT WHITMAN
    • A NIGHT
      (pp. 556-567)
      LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

      Being fond of the night side of nature, I was soon promoted to the post of night nurse, with every facility for indulging in my favorite pastime of “owling.” My colleague, a black eyed widow, relieved me at dawn, we two taking care of the ward between us, like regular nurses, turn and turn about. I usually found my boys in the jolliest state of mind their condition allowed; for it was a known fact that Nurse Periwinkle objected to blue devils, and entertained a belief that he who laughed most was surest of recovery. At the beginning of my...

    • A NURSE’S STORY
      (pp. 568-590)
      PETER BAIDA

      The pain in Mary McDonald’s bones is not the old pain that she knows well, but a new pain. Sitting in her room in the Booth-Tiessler Geriatric Center, on the third floor, in the bulky chair by the window, Mary tries to measure this pain. She sits motionless, with a grave expression on her face, while the cheerless gray sky on the other side of the window slowly fades toward evening.

      Mary McDonald knows what this pain comes from. It comes from a cancer that began in her colon and then spread to her liver and now has moved into...

    • A SEPARATE SPECIES: RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE WORLD AND WITH OURSELVES
      (pp. 591-599)
      MARION DEUTSCHE COHEN

      Well spouses often talk about how old friends no longer come around. They add that they no longer feel comfortable with old friends, and they can’t make new friends because they never go anywhere. “We don’t fit in with married couples,” they continue, “nor are we exactly swinging singles.” Saying things like this, some of them have tears in their eyes.

      My own experience has been slightly different. While I have contended with some of that isolation, I have also had many good friends who have listened, if not understood. Moreover, many of my friendships have been enhanced by my...

    • Excerpt from Elegy for Iris
      (pp. 600-623)
      JOHN BAYLEY

      Didn’t Margaret Thatcher, at the mention of whose name Cloudy always starts barking, used to say there was no such thing as “society”? She didn’t put it in quotes, of course: She knew what she meant. But her point wouldn’t have been so obviously untrue if she had said there is no such thing as the “people,” a word that today only achieves some sort of meaning if placed, whether accidentally or deliberately, in a given context. But “the people” are a fictitious body, invoked by politicians in the interest of democratic emotionalism, whereas “society” is still a neutrally descriptive...

    • CASE HISTORY
      (pp. 624-624)
      DANNIE ABSE
    • TEN PATIENTS AND ANOTHER
      (pp. 625-630)
      RAPHAEL CAMPO
    • THE 10,000TH AIDS DEATH IN SAN FRANCISCO
      (pp. 631-632)
      RAPHAEL CAMPO
    • ON HIS BLINDNESS
      (pp. 633-634)
      JOHN MILTON
  10. SUGGESTED LONGER READINGS
    (pp. 635-639)
  11. NOTES ON AUTHORS AND SELECTIONS
    (pp. 640-656)
  12. INDEX OF AUTHORS AND SELECTIONS
    (pp. 657-659)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 660-661)