Sunday, February 7, 2010

What The Doctor Said 

He said it doesn't look good 
he said it looks bad in fact real bad 
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before 
I quit counting them 
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know 
about any more being there than that 
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down 
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help 
when you come to a waterfall 
mist blowing against your face and arms 
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments 
I said not yet but I intend to start today 
he said I'm real sorry he said 
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you 
I said Amen and he said something else 
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do 
and not wanting him to have to repeat it 
and me to have to fully digest it 
I just looked at him 
for a minute and he looked back it was then 
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me 
something no one else on earth had ever given me 
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong 

- Raymond Carver 

i am grateful to the comment on this post for the discovery of this poem. this leaves for dead all other literature on smoking i have read since i started this. this is the kind of writing that will help me to quit.

images of doctor's office from wai lin tse's diary from japan


  1. Lovely poem. I personally can't relate to the habit of smoking but I can understand the constant battle between your health, which you can't regularly witness deteriorate, and the relief or enjoyment that is derived from smoking. There is a guy I currently like who is a habitual smoker and he looks incredibly "cool" when he smokes especially when he uses a rolls-up, but in saying that I feel completely hypocritical telling him to quit. How can something so bad look so good? It's one life's biggest irony.

  2. ive just been catching up on your posting here,
    love this poem, and the photo diary is gorgeous:)

  3. thanks for your comments, crimzonite and marie. i know what you mean crimzonite, but it's funny, but the more i think about quitting (and possibly even before) i have been thinking about how ugly smoking looks. i really can;t see the cool in it. especially when i see young people smoking. the fag hanging out of the mouth is just not a good look. as much as i know myself, i am pretty sure looking cool is not part of my smoking psychology...any peer-led issues around my smoking would more likely be based around habitual shyness or social unease - there is nothing like having the escape of a smoke and a quiet corner....

    and i am glad you both like the poem - i was so amazed to find it, it totally blows me away.

  4. ps - my earlier posts on charlotte gainsbourg and the french was kind of tongue in cheek....i think charlotte is cool. full stop. beautiful. no need for cigs to enhance that. i had always thought so, and had not actually seen her with cigarette that i could recall, before i went looking for gainsbourg images (i was actually thinking of serge initially - he being a famous smoker. but my point was going to be how it killed him...)