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Poetry and Medicine
November 11, 1998

Six Prescriptions

JAMA. 1998;280(18):1562. doi:10.1001/jama.280.18.1562

from reading Doctor Chekhovby John Coope
1
If you talk too much
the blood will rush to your lungs
and deprive the brain,
so don't chatter
and avoid getting constipated.
2
If you are afraid of stressful living
turn yourself into a smelt or sturgeon.
If you don't want Russia to blow up like Sodom,
go to Kiev for the Easter procession.
If you are fed up with so much suffering,
potassium iodide is a splendid thing.
3
The doctor I work with
is quiet and homely.
We nearly always disagree.
I give good tidings
where she imagines death
and when she prescribes a dose
I double it.
4
A hurricane blowing in the head
is almost usual for men of your age.
Take valerian 10 drops QID,
especially if your pulse is weak.
5
Don't let her have porridge,
sunflower seeds, or bread.
If she asks for vodka,
give her a cigarette.
Don't improvise
unless you think about it.
6
I grow weary of peasant women
and tired of iodoform.
A girl with worms in her ear,
a monk with syphilis, an opinion
about the nature of illness,
the tedious powders. Phooey!
Oh, sweet sounds of poesy,
where are you?
Come, climb through my window.

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