Saturday, August 19, 2006

Brief Survey on Books; Poem: Home Surgery

Sam Rasnake, editor of Blue Fifth Review, passed these inquiries on to me and burdened me with the responsiblity of tagging five others.

One book that changed your life: Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. While a psychiatric resident it was the book that synthesized everything I was learning from less direct angles. It gave me a rubric by which to navigate all psychodynamic literature.

One book that you've read more than once: I've read The Brothers Karamazov four times, I think, and I will read it again. I think it the best novel ever written; it includes all the permutations of mankind, from the lecherous Fyodor to the innocent Aloysha. Modern sensibilities too often mistake the pathos therein for bathos.

One book you'd want on a desert island: The largest dictionary available, likely the Oxford English Dictionary.

One book that made you laugh: Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.

One book that made you cry: The Brothers Karamazov. (As a child, Black Beauty.)

One book that you wish had been written: This is getting repetitive: The Brothers Karamazov. I guess I know what I like. I've been tempted to learn Russian just to read it in the original.

One book that you wish had never been written: Das Kapital. Das Kapital gave a "scientific" justification to all the horrors of Communism.

One book you're currently reading: Selected Poems by William Carlos Williams. It's slow going because I don't really like him. He's a cut above Bukowski but their methods hardly differ.

I hereby tag the following to complete this survey as well: Twitches Cynthis Bagley dummy Jim Zola Frank Wilson


People have been saying such nice things about my work that I think I may be a poet.

Here's another poem I discovered in going through old files:

Home Surgery


Daughter, when I freed
the glass sliver from your heel
you screamed, you shook, your foot lurched—
so I gripped your ankle with all the firmness
love could muster.

Plucked from your sole, the fragment shone
like a jewel in the bathroom light,
while blood streamed, mixed with water,
into the white altar of the sink.

At the moment you hurt more
from my maneuvering,
did you doubt me?

That thought wounds my heart
more deeply than the matador
can bury his long blade.


You wouldn’t let Mom near
as you limped around the house—
I carried you up the stairs.

Your foot hung over the sink
like a fish too small to keep,
its belly pale and soft.

A ribbon of blood curled down
the porcelain like a vein.
My tweezers bit the glass.

At the moment of more pain
from my maneuvering
your blue eyes pooled in doubt

as I seized your lurching foot--
I had to remove the hook
born of a broken jar

in the harsh light to prove
the evil of that star
less cruel than that of love.

There are two views of the same incident because I couldn't decide which I liked better. You must admit it's more cheerful than "Home Burial" by Frost.

At one kilorat.

Thine in Truth and Art,

C. E. Chaffin


  1. Yea.. my Dad was the sliver surgeon too. :-)

  2. Anonymous7:32 AM PDT

    I have to say that I love the spiritual implications of the first version. It may be because of where I am in life, that I am just now learning that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our loved ones is also the most painful.

    Anyway, I see this poem as a question posed by the Heavenly Father, and then I see it as a question I would ask of my own child. And there is the tension felt by the one inflicting the pain.

    This poem makes me want to memorize and carry its words around in my heart.

  3. Hey Cyn, I posted about your book list.

    Anonymous, I am humbled you would carry these words in your heart--a compliment every poet wants to hear. And I think you're right; the first version is more emotionally direct, while the second is slightly distanced, esp. by the regular form. Thank you!


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