Dangers of Anthropomorphism in Medicine (#poem)

chimpanzee sitting on gray stone in closeup photography during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It is most important, he said, to never
Ascribe to your subjects the feelings,
Intentions, and desires of humans.

You must make assiduous reports
Of behavior devoid of motive or
Explanation. The maternal adult screamed

But never wailed in sorrow, for
We cannot assume she is capable
Of sorrow. We cannot assume

Her frantic clamoring expresses
Either desperation or lamentation for
The infant stolen from her hours before.

We cannot assume she feels what
Humans feel or, indeed, is capable
Of thoughts or intentions at all.

But do remember that our work
Is important, as these specimens
Are perfect subjects for the study

Of human medicine. Their biology
And neurology is so similar to human
Biology that we can safely assume

That any treatments developed
For them will have similar effects
On their human counterparts.

What is safe for your subjects
Will be safe and beneficial for
Humans. Any deleterious effects

Must be recorded, of course,
As you have an obligation to humanity.
Your aim is to improve human well-being.

Posted in ethics, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry Review: Speaking parts by Linda Goulden

Screenshot 2019-06-17 at 10.43.23Linda Goulden’s new pamphlet, Speaking parts, is a collection of 28 poems written in 28 voices. In full disclosure, I must a say I know Linda Goulden and only admire her work, so you won’t be wondering whether I will recommend you get a copy as you already know you should get a copy. You should also go see her perform if the opportunity arises.

As I said, the poems reflect different voices, sometimes from history (Mary Stuart), sometimes from non-humans (a bee queen or a catch from the sea), sometimes from characters in a painting, and sometimes from her own fertile mind. Goulden takes obvious delight in language, as is the poet’s wont, and the result is strikingly original phrasing.

Some of her poems utilise the occasional rhyme, and some do not, but none of the poems ignores meter or form, and none falls into a repetitive meter with predictable rhymes. Each poem brings its own surprises in language that is both soft and compelling. Some of the poems require a bit of attention to get the meaning, as they are not superficial, but your efforts reap their rewards in short order. (That last bit is for people like me who have short attention spans and tend to lose interest before unraveling lengthy metaphors or allegories.)

Posted in poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Treachery of Unspecified Cancers (#fiction)

person seating on bench while holding knees

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

VIII

He was fun. He was a lot of fun. That’s what everyone said. He was funny and jovial and he just loved to be around people, and people loved to be around him. I swear he could make a joke out of just about anything. And he was cute, so he collected plenty of phone numbers, if you know what I mean.

It’s just that right when everyone would be getting into things and really enjoying themselves, Mike would call. And when Mike called, he always went to him, because Mike was experiencing hellish pain from cancer and needed help and support. That’s what he told us. Mike had horrible pain because he was dying from cancer of the leg.

Now, I’m not saying Mike wasn’t sick or anything like that, but I always thought cancer of the leg sounded a bit generic. I mean, I think Bob Marley’s cancer started with a melanoma on his toe, but I never heard anyone call it cancer of the toe. That would sound weird to me.

I guess people do what they have to do, and Mike didn’t leave the house much. He just kept to himself, taking medicines and things, and just trying to get through each day, hour after hellish hour. He didn’t seem to want visitors, as no one I knew was ever invited over to their place. Because I didn’t see him much, I never gave him much thought. I felt a little sorry for him, of course, and I was glad he had someone to take care of him. But I didn’t really know him—there was no connection to him, see?

So that’s why I didn’t think of inviting Mike when we decided to go to the movies. I didn’t think Mike would be interested in going out late, hobbling around town, and getting home in the wee hours.

To be honest, that’s a lie. I simply didn’t think of Mike at all when we made our plans. But I was surprised when Mike was outside the theater when we showed up. And I was surprised when Mike got a ticket and went inside with us. I was relieved, of course!, to see that he walked with no signs of pain or a limp or anything, and he seemed to be handling the cancer treatments quite well. Really, he seemed strong and healthy. I think he could have taken me in a fight, if it came to that.

And I kind of got the feeling Mike wanted me to know that.

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adorable Elderly Man Plays Guitar (#poem)

man playing red and white electric guitar

Photo by Sofia Báthory on Pexels.com

He picks up the guitar and his fingers begin
To glide across the frets and strings.
Decades of muscle memory carry his hands
Through songs and solos that could go for hours
Without repeating or pausing to remember a note.

He was never a household name like the guitar gods
Of arena rock, but he was never hungry, either,
And every dime he earned came from music.
If he wasn’t known to millions of adoring fans,
He was known to thousands of admiring musicians.

He always had a gig and appeared as a session
Musician on hundreds of recordings in genres
As diverse as jazz, classical, R and B, bluegrass,
Rock, funk, and country and western.
He was unassuming but confident and formidable.

As he played, a much younger man watched
With a mixture of envy and admiration and
Recorded on a cell phone. With appropriate permission
Granted, the recording was uploaded to the masses,
Languishing for a few days before catching on and going viral.

To the online world, the veteran performer was reduced
To an adorable elderly gentleman who amazed
The people around him by being able to do what
He had done for the 50 years preceding. His new
Fans felt they had done him a favor by describing him so.

Posted in poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Advertise Your Man (#fiction)

photo of two women sitting

Photo by Jopwell x PGA on Pexels.com

VII

You have to be careful. I mean, you have to watch what you say. It’s easy to think everyone will see things your way, but you never know how they’re going to take things.

That’s what happened when she went to talk to Valerie. She wanted to get some things off her chest, and she just knew Valerie would be sympathetic.

Valerie was sympathetic. Of course she was sympathetic. What kind of friend wouldn’t be? And Valerie enjoyed, maybe enjoyed isn’t the exact right word, listening to other people talk about their sexual problems, so she was bound to be a good listener.

So she unloaded on Val. She talked about how her husband was supportive and everything, but the sex was too burdensome. She told Val how he had a slow fuse and could never just “get to business.” She liked a sort of “stick and go” approach, but he always made a big production out of everything with lots of cuddling, kissing, and holding before ever getting around to the good stuff. By the time he was ready, she had lost interest. You know how it is?

Valerie certainly knew how it was. Valerie understood the dynamics all too well because her husband, too, was a “stick and go” kind of person. He never cuddled her or kissed her or stroked her at all. He just went at it, had his orgasm, and fell asleep.

So, as Val listened to her friend sort of just describing her frustration with the burdens of too much kissing and cuddling, Val got a little turned on. Her fantasies were racing through her mind. She’d been lost in a kissing desert, and now her friend was describing a sort of sexual oasis, and, man, she’d like a good long drink.

So Val was a good friend, and a good listener, like I said. She shared stuff about her life, her sexual past, which had a bit of trauma, too, and her frustrations with marital difficulties. She listened intently. She made herself vulnerable. She offered warm hugs and encouragement.

Once she’d set her friend off in a cloud of mutual support, her own needs and fantasies drove her straight to the telephone. She was tentative and nervous, but desire is sometimes greater than fear. “Hi, I was just talking to your wife. She said you really enjoy long, deep kisses, just like I do.”

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Standard Disclaimer (#poem)

sign pen business document

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Please be advised that all characters
Appearing in this work are fictional.
Any similarity to real people,
Alive or dead (even you)
Is purely coincidental.

The author wishes to assure the reader
That he gives you nary a thought
Since his last work was released to
The general public.

In fact, the author never thinks of you,
Except when he smells someone wearing
Your perfume.

He did think he heard you last week
When he bumped into someone with the
Exact same laugh,
But that is just the mind
Playing tricks on itself
And has no real significance.

The author wishes to assure his
Audience that he has abandoned
The use of muses,
And relies on his own imagination
For all the intrigue, conquest, and
Psychopathic machinations that
Appear in his stories, poems, and songs.

He would appreciate your
Trust and confidence
On this matter and
Sincerely apologises for any
Embarrassment or inconvenience
He may have caused.

Posted in poetry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love and Factitious Fascinations (#fiction)

person holding green necklace

Photo by PETRA BAUMAN on Pexels.com

VI

I’ll tell you, when he came out of that waiting room, he sure did look rough. I mean, you’d say he’d really been through the wringer. His friend Bailey was waiting—as patient as she was solicitous. Fighting brain cancer takes courage, of course, but so does supporting someone with brain cancer.

But Bailey was a saint, and it was nothing to her to go round to get her car (they had to use her car, because he’d loaned his Lexus to another friend), meet him at the patient pick-up, gingerly pack him into the car, and drive him for more than an hour to his home in the suburbs. It was another hour drive back to her place, but she didn’t mind, because she was one of those kind-hearted people like they tell you to be at church. Of course she made sure he was comfortable and had plenty of fluids and snacks before she left him.

Bailey was a saint, like I said, and she would have done all this even if he hadn’t told her he struck it rich as an inventor, although she was mighty impressed by those drawings of the roller coaster he designed. Just touching the Mylar gave her a little rush. She’d never known anyone who’d made it big, and of course she was excited he wanted to invest in her bagel shop.

I mean, it really was nice of him to take her to that furniture auction and bid on the front bar for the shop. A lot of people wanted that old bar, as it was in good shape and was old enough to be considered an antique by American standards, but he just kept upping his bid till it was his, or hers, you know. She almost couldn’t believe it. No one had ever written a check that big on her behalf before. No one had ever invested anything in her, if you want to know the truth, but he really seemed to believe in her. If you’ve ever had anyone who really believed in you, then you can understand what she was going through.

She was sad for her friend, of course, but she’d also never been happier. She’d never felt this appreciated. She’d never had this much confidence. She would be happier a little longer, because it’d be another week before she learned the check bounced.

And it would be two more months before anyone asked if she knew what Munchausen syndrome was.

Posted in Fiction, Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Superposition of Marital States of Bliss and Misfortune (#poem)

shallow focus photography of man and woman kissing each other

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

There’s always that stage
Where you’re both in
And you’re out, you know?

You never thought you’d
Be caught in the trap of
“I owe it to the children.”

You didn’t think you’d
Ever cringe just because you
heard the creak of a door.

When the lid is lifted on
Your Schrodinger’s Cat
Marriage, you hope for death.

And maybe it is a quantum
Problem of superposition of states,
With each profoundly undesirable.

Maybe a cold observation and
Measurement can settle the
Confusion once and for all.

So it’s the doctor who peers
Inside and runs the numbers,
Calculating possible futures.

With all that’s going on,
You don’t expect the prognosis.
You aren’t really ready, but

His eyes tell all as he says,
“If this emotional blackmail
Continues, it will kill you.”

Posted in marriage therapy, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upon the Threat of Thought Experiments (#poem)

20190408203131_IMG_7548.JPGA philosopher of mind,
It doesn’t matter who,
But it was Daniel Dennett,
Made a point of describing
Disembodied consciousness,
Or dissociation,
To prove that animals might
React physically to pain
Without being conscious of it.

He illustrated this with the case of
Children who dissociate during
Sexual assaults. *

In a seminar, another prominent male
Philosopher turned to another and said,
“I dreamed I raped and murdered your wife.
Do I owe you an apology?”

A female philosopher left the room.

Thought experiments are expected to
Be free and provocative,
But haven’t we experimented enough
With thoughts of violence against
Women and girls to know where they lead?

*(Dennett said the child thinks, “’I’ am not undergoing this pain, “she” is.”)

Posted in ethics, Feminism, Philosophy, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On an Emergent Awareness of Impending Death (#fiction #prose #essay)

20190408203713_IMG_7553.JPGV

Sometimes life just smacks you in the face. You’re just minding your own business and out of nowhere comes a big punch to the gut, or, yeah, a slap to the face or whatever. This mostly happens when you’re young. By the time you reach a certain age, if you are so lucky to live that long, you’ll be punch drunk enough, trust me.

Anyway, that’s why she couldn’t believe her rabbit was dying. No, she wasn’t pregnant or anything—her pet rabbit was riddled with tumors and needed to be put down. She’d never lost anyone that close before, and the tears came in waves. She was inconsolable, as you are when you lose something precious.

So she called her mother for comfort, which is a pretty reasonable thing to do, even for someone who is technically grown up and fully adult. Relying on mothers for comfort is a habit many of us never break until fate forces our hand on the matter. She called her mother and told her the devastating news, but her mother wasn’t really as sympathetic as she had expected, so she was a little crestfallen for a minute.

Her mother listened for a minute or two to the tears and lamentations before saying, “You go on like this for your rabbit when you know I have cancer, too?”

It was true that her mother had cancer and she definitely knew about it, but she was still naïve enough to believe doctors could save lives. She had heard of people surviving cancer, so she assumed her mother would be one of those, not one of the unlucky people you hear about in other families. We’re always pretty sure the worst things won’t happen to us, aren’t we?

She would be sadder and wiser soon enough, and maybe the rabbit served as a kind of omen or preparation for what was to come. Maybe it would help her get through the days, months, and years ahead. When you look back on things, it’s hard to say what helped or didn’t as you can’t imagine how bad things might have been otherwise. Trauma and grief can be pretty all consuming, you know, and your imagination for other possible worlds disappears.

You’re just sort of stuck, boxed in, and frozen.

Anyway, that’s how it all started. Tests, promising results, surgeries, promising outcomes, more tests, different doctors, different hospitals, different promises, and different prognoses were all to follow. Sure, the best of us indulge in magical thinking or just wishful thinking, anything to not indulge in despair, even when despair is rationally the correct choice. You pretend that rabbit cancer is categorically different from human cancer. You pretend doctors are magicians. You just get on with it.

Or sometimes you don’t. You decompensate. You look for comfort in anonymous sex, “mood altering” substances, or purely defiant denial. And you’re done for. Death keeps coming, and you find out you’re strong enough to face it down. I know, some people aren’t strong enough to face it down, but anyone reading this has been strong enough so far, so you’ve been strong for a long time.

Keep it up.

Posted in Fiction, Medical Humanism, Suffering | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment