Sunday, July 01, 2007


With the tips of my fingers,
I touch you.
Describing in you arcs, gently, in silence.
In these moments I know more of you
Than you do of yourself.

Open-palmed, knuckles knocking on your ribs,
Pressed tight to your diaphragm,
Feeling through that pale curtain
The shivers of your heart,
My hand lies upon your liver.
Like turned rosewood, oiled and warm
This firm fullness fills me with a kind of joy
Given to few.

My hand glides ahead of me,
Pulling downward, introducing the air
And my breath.
Your liver is
The heart of the ancients.

Your bowels run through my hands.
I stir them in search of your kidneys,
Your spleen.

I ought to be speechless
Yet I ask for my tools.
For this moment your cancer is mine.
When I see you I won't know you.
Not like this.


Lynn Price said...

My GOD. Sid, did you write this? It's beautiful No one has ever been able to effectively describe the beauty, joy, fear, and fascination of our insides the way you do. Beautiful. Thanks so much for this, it's a true inspiration to this writer.

jmb said...

As Lynn says, beautiful. This is what I have always got from your writing, this reverence for the human body, along with a definite empathy for the patients.

rlbates said...

I second, no third that--beautiful!

justme said...

ditto to all comments. You have such a amazing ability to communicate in a deep soul to soul way that leaves the other person changed. I envy your patients. What a privilege to go into surgery knowing that you were loved and respected like that---again, every time I read anything you write, I want more doctors to be like you. You have changed me and made me want more from medical interactions----that's probably dangerous. Such a beautiful poem--is it okay to make copies if we credit you?

Sid Schwab said...

justme: feel free.

Bongi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn Price said...

Sid, I hope you don't mind, but I put your poem up on my blog, too. You're very ably attributed and linked.

My doors are still blown.

Anonymous said...

I touch you with rubber sheathed fingers? Ive always felt that poems about medicine/surgery/the human body border a little too close to the ridiculous rather than the sublime. What will your next trick be? Ode to a Satisfying Bowel Movement?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schwab, that was beautiful. It spoke of a shared intimacy and a proffered trust that few have the courage to give voice to.

I sincerely hope that those who mock ... are not themselves physicians, much less surgeons, and if they are, I would have to say that I feel badly for their patients, and for them.

Thanks, Dr. Schwab, for being a person who can paint that sort of imagery, and for being willing to share it with all of us.

Anonymous said...

Spare me Moof. It's a little cheesy is all. Empathetic physicians aren't required by law to have to appreciate second rate, sententious poems about someone's rubber sheathed fingers caressing intestines.

Sid Schwab said...

I actually tagged it with "pretentious." And for a non-poet, I'm quite satisfied to make it to the level of "second-rate." There are many other available rates. No worries here.

Anonymous said...

I was going to stay out of this, since I had already seen the poem, but after the two anonymous coward posts, I feel the need to say something.

I'm not trying to speak for Dr. Schwab, and I certainly bear no credentials in either medicine or literature, but I'll proffer my opinion all the same. Dr. Schwab, to me, is not trying to impress the reader with his filigreed, florid words--"rubber sheathed fingers" is not trying to be sublime. What makes the poem unique is the very fact that it does thrust the banal (intestines, organs) against the sublime (wonder, awe). If you feel a slight tinge of discomfort reading the poem because you're visually picturing slithering viscera while reading well-chosen words, that's the whole point--that's exactly what the dichotomy is, as experienced by the surgeon (poet).

It's not a flaw, it's what's real.

Sid Schwab said...

I guess I could have said "gloved" instead of "rubber sheathed." If I were to send it somewhere, I might make that change; although frankly when I originally wrote it lo these many months ago, the ambiguity of "rubber sheathed" was not unintentional. After all, commenters on this very blog have referred to surgery as rape... But I didn't want to go there; so I think I'd change it if it ever went anywhere but here.

justme said...

Well, I was going to stay out of it, too, but... ok, anonymous,

1. one of the best ways to judge poetry is by the degree that it affects you---stirs your senses, emotions, gives you a 'visceral response'. For me, the poem is way up there for that.

2.despite our American independent individualism, we all have a need to be deeply heard and understood. sounds like you don't get it that you are 'fearfully and wonderfully made'. while you are hanging out, doing nothing, your body, with no knowledge or assistance from you, is fighting potential enemies through your immune system, maintaining temperature, ph, fluid balance, electrolyte balance, choreographing minutely detailed motor planning so that you can do something as amazing as write your name, walk, etc., building and tearing down bone, skin, blood cells and other tissue, processing millions of bits of information through all your senses, digesting and absorbing nutrients with whatever good stuff or junk you give it, ------etc. The idea that a surgeon could be fixing my insides and have the understanding and respect that the poem speaks of is very special.

3. as far as your clever sarcasm about 'ode to a bowel movement'---ask a quadriplegic how much it would mean to be able to perform that act independently

ask someone with crohn's disease what it would mean to be able to go to the bathroom without fear of pain and bleeding

ask a person with bowel obstruction what it would mean for things to work correctly --or a person with colon cancer or a colostomy.

actually, it is a perfectly legitimate idea for a poem.

SeaSpray said...

Oh Dr Schwab - I loved it!

I posted a comment here last night but maybe I inadvertently hit delete?

I agree with all the positive ones here and actually printed it to give to my urologist this morning but then got side tracked.

Anonymous said...

wow. very nice. its been so long since ive been out catching up on my blogger friends ... this was a nice surprise to read. its very real.

i have little time online these days, rather than my usual morning hour to catch up, write, and touch friends. i read your blog on one yrea, and that is so cool! blogging is rewarding, i think. sometimes disappointing. sometimes really connective.

anyway, i thought the poem was cool. spoken like a surgeon, not a foofy writer. a real person. thanks. makes me hope if i have to have surgery, it would be you.


Anonymous said...

Mind blowing.


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