Tell me about the pain. Is it sharp or dull? What brings it on? What makes it go away? Does aspirin seem to help? Does it feel better after eating? Can you tolerate greasy foods? Does it get relieved when you lie down? Is it worse in the morning or evening? Put your finger on the spot that hurts most. Does it come and go or is the pain constant? Does it radiate through to your back or shoulder? Do you feel like a small animal is nibbling inside you? Do you wake in the morning crowned with a halo of pain? Have you come to depend on the pain to keep you alive? Do you remember a time before birth when the rhythm of the universe was your second heartbeat? Do you remember how green the grass used to be? Do you remember a time when you remembered no pain? When you were young did you torture animals? Were you faithful to your first lover? Are you afraid of the darkness? Tell me about the pain. Is it sharp or dull?
From “Sutured Words: Contemporary Poetry About Medicine” (Aviva Press, P.O.B. 1357, Brookline, MA 02146: $18, paper; 402 pp.), edited by Jon Mukand, who has both an MD and an MA in English. This anthology is remarkable, both for the number and the distinction of the poems assembled. Its sections are: The Medical Environment; Patients’ Views of Illness; Patients’ Views of Doctors; Physicians; Family and Friends; Women; Mental Illness; Disability, and Social Issues. Mukand contributes a general introduction and a particular introduction to each section. Jeremy Nobel, a specialist in industrial medicine, has published his poetry before in Annals of Internal Medicine. 1987, Jon Mukand, by permission.