Bursting with Danger and Music
Jack Coulehan’s latest collection of poems arises from the uncertainties, pain, and limitations of medical practice where moments of insight and joy are bursting with danger and music.
In pitch-perfect poems that see clearly the humanity behind a patient’s illness and actions, Coulehan investigates life’s essential minutiae—the observed moment, the healing gesture, the internal response. In poems such as “Forbidden Perfume” and “Referral from Dolores,” he is not afraid to examine the often unspoken-about reality of care giving—the human odors of illness and neglect. And yet his poems are elegantly humane; they look beyond the difficult surface to see the worth, the holiness, of the individual person. My favorite poem in this new collection is the lovely, “Darkness is Gathering Me.” There is darkness in this collection—the “Danger” of the title—but most of all there is “Music.” The music in these poems is the sweet melody of compassion, of the way, when we are at our best, we care for and cherish one another.
—Cortney Davis, author of I Knew a Woman: The Experience of the Female Body (winner of the Center for the Book Non-fiction Award) and The Heart’s Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing.
With courage, conviction, and an eye for the singular, Jack Coulehan brings us to the intersection of body and soul. His poems are thoughtful, inviting, and transporting.
—Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of Medicine in Translation and editor of Bellevue Literary Review
Jack Coulehan’s poems ache with understatement and quiet beauty—like the work of any true healer, through them we are touched at the very core of our beings, and thus we rediscover the redemptive power of our own empathetic engagement with one another. The plainest of mysteries abound here: a smoked ham packed in dry ice sent each Christmas by a grateful patient becomes a ghostly reminder of mortality when one year it never arrives; the five moons of Venus, confused with Jupiter’s through a backyard telescope, are humbling reminders of the limitations of what we think we know. In the end, Coulehan’s bemused “prescriptions” of music and magic, of the miraculous in the mundane, are all that we require for what ails us.