Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Another Found Poem – Anatomy of Love

John A. Vanek
St. Petersburg, Florida, United States


Poet’s statement: I am a physician by training, but a poet by passion. Poetry provides a vehicle that takes me to places that logic won’t go. It is a way of understanding the incomprehensible, both in life and in medicine. I now prescribe poetry PRN (“as needed”), but warn that it may hurt a little. My poems are peopled with my family, friends, and patients. “Another Found Poem” is based on a real event from my internship, and “Anatomy of Love” is simply a flight of fantasy.


Another Found Poem

Christmas lights of red and green

twinkle on the monitor,

flash pulse and pressure, proclaim

the baby in this crib will live

for now.

My gloved hand hovers above the only vein

on his hairless scalp, ‘til the butterfly

needle finds courage to land,

and I tape the tube to sallow skin

that wants to tear away.

Blue fingers fist with the whoosh

of each breath, as bellows fan

this fading ember—a warm blanket

and a mother’s sleepless song,

gifts for the newborn child.

She huddles with her husband as if cold,

his blue blazer now her shawl, limbs and lives

entwined, nestled forehead to forehead,

exchanging a dialysis

of toxic hope.

I want nothing more

than the sleep of a silent night

filled with dreams of places

other than here, heedless

of her cradlesong.

In this strawless manger of sorrow,

below a fluorescent star, I wonder

how to tell this couple

the baby they never could bear

will be gone by New Year’s.

I fiddle with knobs, gauge

how much they understand,

snatch glances meant for each other,

stare at my blood-spattered shoes, then

tell them—

and all is lost

but these words

and the haunting hum

of a mother’s

never-ending lullaby.

Anatomy of Love

When I say I “love” you, I mean

the moonlight dancing across your hair

reflects from the mirror that is you

in splendid full light spectrum,

and your rainbow beauty is focused

by lenses onto my retinas, then carried like a bride

across the threshold of the optic nerves,

overloading my neural network

like faulty wiring

on a brittle-brown Christmas tree,

and from the top branch, I hear

the pineal gland murmur: “The night is young!”

as my olfactory lobes detect the smell of smoke,

and hormones spray

from a pituitary sprinkler

filling my blood with adrenaline jet fuel,

causing my diaphragms to pump like bellows,

sucking a tornado of night air down my trachea,

stars and all, lifting me like a helium balloon

as my pulsing aorta takes all the flow

the old ticker can muster, temporal arteries

beating my head like twin tom-toms until

I whirl in a vertigo dance, the rush of red cells

flooding my cheeks, ears, and loins

causing both chambers of my corpus cavernosum

to engorge, and well, you know …

yet I barely can hear my appendix

drone endlessly on

about feeling neglected, useless,

because the auditory nerves are ringing

church bells in my ears, as every cell

lights up like the 4th of July,

and combustible emotions

ignite in the hippocampus and amygdala,

burn across the medulla, down my spinal cord like a fuse,

sodium and calcium ion channels opening

as muscles contract, my lips part,

and I take you in my arms for a deep kiss—so,

don’t you smirk and roll your eyes and tell me

I don’t know the meaning of “love,”

’cause baby, I’m up to my anus in degrees,

and I wrote the damn textbook

on love!



JOHN A. VANEK, MD, is a physician and poet with works published in numerous literary journals, university press anthologies (most recently, Red, White and Blues: Poets On The Promise Of America, from the University of Iowa Press), as well as such diverse publications as the Journal of the American Medical Association (featured poem), and Biker Ally—The Motorcycle Magazine Geared For Women. He has read his poetry at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas, the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, and Eckerd College in Florida. His first full-length book of poetry, entitled Heart Murmurs: Poems, was published in 2009.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Fall 2010 – Volume 2, Issue 3

Fall 2010 |  Sections  |  Poetry

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