Telling Him He Has Cancer of the Lung (Eric L. Dyer, MD)

‘… a madman attacked Michelangelo’s Pieta with a hammer.’
A time to speak,
not wanting to speak this much,
not wanting to raise my hammer
against this Pieta
shadowed in long planes of light
or to fracture any marble brow today.
Not wanting to prosect this pathology report
laid out neatly as a new chisel upon my oak desk.
Not wanting to gouge any deeper lines
into his hard face
or to carve ornate prognoses
with the dull edge of statistical ambiguity.
Not wanting to reveal the silver lining
as a flash of surgeon’s steel
sculpting the pink cloud in his chest.
Not wanting to lie
or to strike obliquely at the truth
or to evade outright sharply pointed questions
pressing into my hands like nails.
Not wanting to be this angry
at the cold, white truth,
not wanting to judge the cracked face of God.

Discussion Questions:
1) Throughout the poem the authors uses the language of sculpting and carpentry to discuss his role in communicating this diagnosis in the patient – how does this language frame the actions of doctors, and the power they possess?

2) What feelings are evoked by the use of repetition in this poem (not wanting…)?


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