Retrospective

Jack Coulehan

Forty years passed. His body replaced
its cells, with the exception of his heart’s
persistent pump and the mushroom-like paste
of his brain. Only scattered synaptic charts
of his internship remain, etched in myelin,
a few of them deeply. Nonetheless, a dried
umbilical cord connects that powerful womb
to the aging man, across a gulf as wide
as imagination. He doubts there’s a thread
to follow, a blockaded door to open,
or a fusty corridor down which to tread
to a solution: those he hurt, the woman
he killed with morphine, more than a few
he saved. His ally, hope, will have to do.

About the poet:

Jack Coulehan is a poet, physician and medical educator whose work appears frequently in medical journals and literary magazines. His most recent collection of poems is Bursting with Danger and Music, published last year. He received the Nicholas Davies Award of the American College of Physicians in 2012 for “outstanding lifetime contributions to the humanities in medicine.”

About the poem:

“As I approached the end of my medical practice, I thought a lot about its beginning, especially my internship, which was a traumatic experience. Am I the same person I was then? How does personal identity persist over time? I’ve struggled with these questions in a number of poems. This sonnet is one of them.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

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