Not God: A Play in Verse

Marc J. Straus
  • Review
By – October 26, 2011
Not God is an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of poet­ry writ­ten by a physi­cian who main­ly works with patients dying of can­cer. But this col­lec­tion is not about death; it is about the quirky and shock­ing humor or per­spec­tive that only a dying per­son pos­sess­es in order to ful­ly live. For instance, look at Dol­drums,” in which dear Aunt Ethel arrives at the bed­side of a ter­mi­nal­ly ill patient and pro­ceeds to inun­date the entire room with can­dy, com­plaints, and gos­sip, The family/​all mock this old paint­ed bird. But just now/​I love her dear­ly, so irrev­er­ent and beau­ti­ful.” Why? She is full of life” just like every poem in this mem­o­rable book. The hum­ming of a patient is inter­pret­ed as incan­ta­tions, a musi­cal score, etc. But the author shock­ing­ly sug­gests, I think God hears them as my prayers.” What does the patient real­ly think of his or her doc­tor who is obsessed with the dis­ease process? In Sigh” we read, “…He has no tolerance/​for remon­stra­tion, his head is so cluttered/​with oblig­a­tory data. I might artic­u­late my pain/​but he is filled with dying and I’m obliged/​to keep the sigh inside.” In the bril­liant title piece, Not God,” the author imag­ines how to respond to the patient who says, I know you’re not God…but what would you do if it was your father, or wife, …?” His reply? Do you say this to your lawyer, accoun­tant, or moth­er-in-law? And if I’m not God, then why/​ask me a ques­tion that only God can answer?” This clever, poignant col­lec­tion with plen­ty of spunk­i­ness is a superb reminder about just what L’Chaim” means in the per­cep­tion of all liv­ing crea­tures — even those — all of us — who are dying! To Life!” Celebrate!
Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

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