Art’s Longing, Medicine’s Ways



Who’s Hippocrates, I know,
in Crete or someplace else –
calling out to the Sirens,
the Sea’s own and asking you
for healing ways, the mind
or spirit’s, not the body’s own.
Oh, the body, and being with
Odysseus again but only with
Titans and Poseidon where all
life comes from underwater
close to a billion nerve cells,
globules, arteries and alveoli
I want you to know about
with an electron microscope –
pulse-beats really.

A magnifying glass, or what
else I must consider best, if
it is art’s longing you see,
or medicine’s ways it will be
with a stethoscope in hand –
a talisman hanging around
my neck, but not knowing
what’s beating in the brain
as nothing’s undone when
waves appear on the computer
screen, real art displayed:
a miracle I hear you say –
the heart beating stronger,
the aorta most of all, being
again in the Aegean Sea.



The air we breathe is what the lungs
know about, what the ancient Greeks
or the Pharaohs contemplated best
more than Harvey of blood circulation.

Oh the heart and knowing what else
the rib cage tells us about, a distinct
rhythm only I will contend with,
like Odysseus, or some other

I’ve considered less about at
odd moments in distant places,
the imagination indeed, or being
Homer again with mythology.

Ithaca I will aim for, returning
home where I consider brain cells
and start humming to myself
about the liver, kidneys, spleen;

and veins, arteries, aorta, the alveoli,
bronchial tubes as I breathe harder
making sure I’m one step closer
to my own creative self, I know,

but resorting to valves; and those
who will come after with gadgets,
a doctor’s tools yet hanging around
the neck I will again dwell upon

in my own way with a mighty
heave, not unlike real drama
played out on stage, bloodlust
being tragedy from the start.





Cyril Dabydeen’s recent books include My Undiscovered  Country (Mosaic Press, Oakville), God’s Spider/poetry (Peepal Tree Press, UK), My Multi-Ethnic Friends and Other Stories  (Guernica Editions, Toronto), and the anthology Beyond Sangre Grande: Caribbean Writing Today (Tsar/Mawenzi House, Toronto). Previous books include: Jogging in Havana (1992), Black Jesus and Other Stories (1996), Berbice Crossing (1997), My Brahmin Days (2000), North of the Equator (2001), Play a Song Somebody: New and Selected Short Stories (2003), Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (2005), and the novel, Drums of My Flesh, 2007 (nominated for the IMPAC/Dublin Prize, and winner of the International Guyana Prize for best novel). Cyril’s work has appeared in over 60 literary mags and anthologies, including Poetry (Chicago), Prairie Schooner (US), The Critical Quarterly (UK), Canadian Literature, and the Oxford, Penguin and Heinemann Books of Caribbean Verse and Fiction. He has adjudicated for the Governor General’s Award (Poetry) and the USA Neustadt Prize for Literature (University of Oklahoma). He is a former Poet Laureate of Ottawa (1984-87). He has taught Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa for many years.