The C2S blog draws on the arts, the social and biological sciences to explore the many meanings of health and "dis-ease." Designed to be a locus where patients, their families and professionals can meet on a level playing field, it is the natural off-shoot of the Cell 2 Soul Online Journal. We encourage the submission of ideas, essays, poems, stories, humor, and timely reviews relating to the humanities and health care.
Note: Because of formating concerns, this poem is better viewed as a pdf:
Download My Child
The jaws of silver monsters
found you, disemboweled you, ferocious
forceps leaving your tiny chest eviscerated;
mutilated your precious head, and maybe brain
asunder, you wonder why you were squandered.
Curetted craters of flesh reveal unknown thoughts
blackening, festering in quiescent blood, lost postmen with
nowhere to deliver. I quiver as I purse my lips and
blow a gentle wind to fill your nose. And though
your breaths are still, I still want you to feel
how tender air can be as she caresses the
recesses of your empty throat with a gentle tickle.
But life, like the wind, is fickle. Yet somehow
still, we will take a million more breaths.
And this, this is what breathing feels like, my
In my hands, I envelop
your disembodied arms, skeletal and torn. I try my best to caress
what’s left of your flesh so you know how warmth lingers
after fingers have touched you, and not how silver,
slivered serpents have rent you. I don’t know why I try
to put you back together, you’re not a Barbie to
be fixed. This isn’t playtime, there are no fixes for
the existence I’ve nixed. Into your hips, I dumbly
bump the stumps of your legs as I shift
them, animate them, giving them motion,
locomotion with my imagination, granting them a shade of
life. But I’m not a god and God knows the days
and days have pained me. Yet somehow still, we will
ourselves forward to take a million more steps.
And this, this is what walking feels like, my child.
As I hold your head
close to mine, my tears fall to places in the spaces above your
face, where they trace out rivulets of silent cries
and sighs onto eternally lidded eyes. I imagine
you cooing, sincere with cheer with a voice that the world
will never hear -- an unfinished melody, a song that I
penned, but ended before the impending chorus. Crimson drops
fall into my lap, from living rivers no longer coursing. My
coarse hands rutilant, ruefully stained by your darkened Spring. I
bring you closer, our foreheads nearly touching. And I touch my
lips to your lips so you’ll know how I wish I could kiss you ‘good
night’ every night. But Life is full of heights and bottomless
dips for it knows no scripts, and now you know that living hurts. Yet
somehow still, we will keep trying a million more times.
And this, this is what love feels like, my
Author’s Note: Dilation & Evacuation (D&E) refers to
a specific second trimester abortive procedure. The fetus is first terminated
with a lethal injection. Instruments such as forceps, vacuums, and curettes are
then used to remove the fetus from the uterus. Since the baby may be too large
to remove through the cervix, forcible dismemberment of the body is sometimes
necessary. This poem is inspired by a true mother’s story, but remains a piece
of poetic fiction.
Author Bio: Phil Delrosario is a senior in Human Biology
with a concentration in Psychological Development in Children and Adolescents
at Stanford University in California. He
enjoys writing, making short films, and playing his violin/piano/ukulele and is
a protégé of Professor Larry Zaroff.
Phil can be reached at pdelATstanford.edu.
wasteland of wood and steel spaghetti, unwelcome water everywhere
(but not enough to drink) subway becomes canal disease looks up from endless pools of wicked wicked water nothing clean anymore nothing clear anymore and why does “Sandy” sound so friendly
match stick houses and front yard yachts dolly without a child mom’s wedding picture things in wrong places sad rescue-dog faces, death-at-the-door screaming, children leaving forever before kindergarten and why does “Sandy” sound so friendly
homeless hearts homeless in an hour homeless in an hour words will not help nor a god “too high up and too far away” reach out from the security of our untouched homes the spared reach out to hug them with wallets and a single shared soul
When the wind died, there was a moment of silence for the wind. When the maple tree died, there was always a
place to find winter in its branches. When the roses died, I
respected the privacy of the vase. When the shoe factory died, I stopped listening at the back door to the glossolalia of machines. When the child died, the mother put a spoon in the blender. When the child died, the father dug a hole in his thigh and got in. When my dog died, I broke up with the woods. When the fog lived, I went into the valley to be held by water. The dead have no ears, no answering machines that we know of, still we call.
— BOB HICOK, the author of the forthcoming “Elegy Owed,” which includes this poem This appeared in the NY Times Sunday Review, December 16, 2012. It can be viewed better there.
Persistent scratches ripping
through the tranquility of the night,
and bedsheets dusty with flaked skin,
mingled with dried blood in the mornings.
Her skin stained with the purple sting of potassium permanganate,
burning from the relentless scorch of tea tree oil, smothered in topical
Bandaged to retain moisture. Unbandaged to promote air flow.
A blur of diagnoses and
“diagnoses” paraded by,
convictions by professionals and well-meaning relatives:
“No heat, no chlorine, no sunshine, no pollen. No butter, no wheat, no potato chips,
no fat, no chocolate, no seafood, no meat, no sugar, no salt!”
Too much American food. oxidized oils,
pesticides, hormones-those damn Oreos, all to blame.
“This doesn’t appear to be a food allergy, but we can run some tests…”
“You see, the American doctors don’t study this. This is a question of inner
A question of hotness and coldness of the body, toxicity, mystery, cortisone
And a vicious cycle of irritation, scratching,
skin, infection, itchiness,
scolding, shouting, scratching…
And the mingling of voices of
authority spilled over the reddened cracks in her skin
and filled her heart with guilt and inadequacy.
“You are the only one who knows your body. Only you can know what to do for yourself-”
And the bitterness of her condition was accentuated
with the bitterness of soups and broths and
darkly resplendent with Chinese medicinal herbs, kernels, stalks, and shoots.
disappointment and failures came desperation
Cycling through past attempts, various diets.
The doctors’ echoes weren’t very much help-
the relief provided through the prescribed creams and ointments was ephemeral.
Though some knowledge provided comfort - like the dreaded skin prick testing -
back gridded into a 5x7 rectangle and stabbed thirty-five times
to reveal her body’s weaknesses
towards watermelon, shrimp, milk, Kentucky bluegrass,
hay, walnuts, chicken, turkey, sea bass, lobster, dust, mold, and cockroaches -
Her skin still burned and flared, cracked and red and dry and unforgiving,
I’ve watched the parade
of well-meaning people walking in and out of her life: smiling
pediatricians, puzzled dermatologists,
vehement relatives. No one is to blame.
I’ve watched her sneak
Oreos away from the pantry, stealing bites of childhood innocence;
for turtlenecks; being tormented by other children
the ragged appearance of her skin.
Watched my father drive three
hours to the only Costco that stocked unscented Keri Soothing Dry Skin Formula
and return home with thirty cases of three bottles each
by the way, also didn’t work).
And I’ve watched her grow up and out of her skin,
which still bears the scars and rough patches of struggles and treatments,
up and out of reticence, sensitivity, resentment, confusion, worthlessness.
Rising above the motley patchwork of voices to wholeness.
Author Note: Clara Luu was born and raised in San Jose, CA. She is currently a
sophomore at Stanford University, studying Human Biology and living an
exciting pre-med life. "Quilted" is drawn from a composite of
household dermatological experiences from her childhood. This piece written
for the "Becoming a Doctor" medical humanities seminar taught by
Professor Larry Zaroff. It exemplifies the key motifs motivating
Clara to pursue a career in medicine: the mutifaceted aspects of
wellness, the importance of culturally sensitive medicine, the strong
role of family in the healing process, and the mysteries of some medical
conditions that are the catalyst for exploration, discovery, and
Walking on tree trunks, pounding the wooden walkway until it shrieks, a pair of senior ladies discuss ways to improve
their health, where to buy a good tomato and evening dinner plans. Behind them, walking on sticks, two men, slim with cardiac concern, worry about taxes and the hurricane season and
argue about which liquid establishment makes the best dirty
A bit farther back, an elderly couple turtles along helping
each other, old bones groaning, take one sad step at a time while planning still another European trip and believing they will not pass from this orb with plans made and the trip not
Ahead on a bench, pocket full of bottled pills, soft
cervical-collared-me watches the parade of fears and denials snake through the morning on the wooden walkway. I greet them with empathic smiles and waves knowing I but see myself.
II. James and Jude*
James and Jude, sadly gone of a sudden Sunday. Crash. A lovely leaving as one, father and son. Still, in this world of raging roulette we who remain ever long for their ghosts.
Ah, but Heaven shall wipe away all tears when we meet again, soul to soul, somewhere somewhere out there in Rumi’s field.
III. Bench Talk
the bench where he had been sitting with the Live Oak late in the afternoon she
took a seat. He nodded kindly. She began to talk: of the exquisite texture of
the Magnolia blossom; of the Spanish Moss above their heads; of the lump in her
breast, the biopsy and the waiting for the doctor’s verdict; of She-Crab Soup
and her son’s close call at Virginia Tech where the mass killings had taken
place; of how lovely the sun felt on her skin this day; of two marriages, now
history, and her fear of another relationship.
soft, soft eyes he answered each pain and with twinkling eyes each veneer of
pleasure. She continued to speak going backwards in her memory: her first love,
who loved her not; an unexpected pregnancy and how she disposed of it. To their
left a Snowy Egret landed to fish at the edge of the lagoon. She pointed and
commented on its white perfection. He nodded kindly. The Egret swallowed and
she did likewise as she told of her daughter’s passing from a brain tumor
before her twentieth year. Again he smiled kindly and knowingly. There were
other things to tell and she told them, her story punctuated by the singing of
birds, the wind in the trees, his smile and the ever-so-gentle nodding of his
she had told it all she took a very deep breath and, for the first time, looked
him straight in the eye. “It's been a long, long, hot summer”, she sighed.
“Yes”, he smiled. And now, her burdens reduced at last, she thought as she
left: “that man is a brilliant conversationalist.”
Author Bio: Frank Cavano is a retired psychiatrist who writes because
it is an enjoyable experience and, often, a healing one as well. His poems and
other writings are often of a spiritual/inspirational/metaphysical nature. He
tries to be a faithful, empathic observer of the human condition in all his
* James was my wife's nephew and Jude his son. They
went out for ice cream on a Sunday about three years ago and were killed in an
automobile accident. Imagine.
I put your sweater on though it’s hot as hell outside and the street-flooding, thunder-busting rain did little to relieve.
People like me, medicated with blood
thinners, run contrary to the
thermostat, especially when the
AC is belting away, fogging windows.
sweater off the hanger made me smile, not
sad, because it always
amused you that I wore it more
often than you.
We bought it
together. I remembered a shop
in London. But I see from the
label that it was from
right here in Houston, 100% camel hair,
camel color. Comes to my knees, big like you, There's a tissue in
the pocket, probably mine, a
button missing, a moth hole in the
I’ll put it back
in the closet with the rest of
your things , after I turn the
Katie O'Sullivan "is late writer of poetry, essays, short stories
and memoirs and one 10 minute play produced in Houston where I have lived
since my husband's retirement. I received an AA degree from UCLA
before our marriage and after our 7th child was born I continued my
education in Modern Near East History at the American University of
Beirut, graduated and continued on a Master Degree program before we were
transferred to the Netherlands. Living for 15 years in Lebanon was a beautiful and
exciting experience and I spent much of those years as a volunteer at the
American University Hospital. Between my family, studies and volunteerism,
I didn't have time to write until we came to Houston." You may
contact her at K O'S email.
I have an
otolaryngologist Who treats my sinusitis. An orthopedic surgeon who’s In charge of my bursitis; A gastroenterologist Who probes and writes Rxs Whenever my complaints are lodged Around my solar pìexus. A trusted ophthalmologist who sees to how I'm seeing, A psychiatric expert for Emotional well being; A noted rheumatologist To manage my arthritis, And yet another specialist For warts and dermatitis; A leading cardiologist To regulate the heart of me, A team of radiologists Who've pictured every part of me. And yet, with all their wherewithal, They heal themselves, I’m told, With aspirin, tea, and chicken soup Whenever they catch cold.
Author Bio: Elaine Zeichner was born in New York City and
is a graduate of Hunter College. While
at Hunter, she honed her creative talents writing lyrics for “Sing.” She and her husband lived in
Fresh Meadows, Queens, NY where they raised their two children. After 25 years as a NYC schoolteacher, Elaine
and her husband relocated to South Florida. She continues to enjoy
dabbling in poetry and creative writing.
Photo is on Jainworld.com site.
Ms. Zeichner's poem reminded me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each of her specialists sees only a part of her. Where is the generalist of old?
There was a moving obituary in the NY Times about Louis Simpson, a Pulitzer
Prize-winning poet who told characteristically American tales of common people
and often cast a skeptical eye on the American dream.
was born in Jamaica of a Russian-Jewish mother and an aristocratic white father
who hid is African ancestry. He moved to
New York as a teenager and left Columbia College, as so many other young med did, to serve in World War II. His life storyy is
tailor made for a spell-binding book.