Doctor Frolic

By Robert Pinsky b. 1940 Robert Pinsky
Felicity the healer isn’t young
And you don’t look him up unless you need him.   
Clown’s eyes, Pope’s nose, a mouth for dirty stories,   
He made his bundle in the Great Depression

And now, a jovial immigrant success
In baggy pinstripes, he winks and wheezes gossip,   
Village stories that could lift your hair
Or lance a boil; the small town dirt, the dope,

The fishy deals and incestuous combinations,   
The husband and the wife of his wife’s brother,   
The hospital contract, the certificate ...   
A realist and hardy omnivore,

He strolls the jetties when the month is right   
With a knife and lemons in his pocket, after   
Live mussels from among the smelly rocks,   
Preventative of impotence and goitre.

And as though the sight of tissue healing crooked   
Pleased him, like the ocean’s vaginal taste,   
He’ll stitch your thumb up so it shows for life.   
And where he once was the only quack in town

We all have heard his half-lame joke, the one   
About the operation that succeeded,
The tangy line that keeps that clever eye   
So merry in the punchinello face.

Robert Pinsky, "Doctor Frolic" from Sadness and Happiness. Copyright © 1975 Princeton University Press, 2003 renewed PUP.  Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

Source: The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (Princeton University Press, 1996)

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Poet Robert Pinsky b. 1940

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, The Body, Activities, Nature, Jobs & Working

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Consonance

 Robert  Pinsky


Robert Pinsky is one of America’s foremost poet-critics. Often called the last of the “civic” or public poets, Pinsky’s criticism and verse reflect his concern for a contemporary poetic diction that nonetheless speaks of a wider experience. Elected Poet Laureate of the United States in 1997, his tenure was marked by ambitious efforts to prove the power of poetry—not just as an intellectual pursuit in the ivory tower, but as a . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, The Body, Activities, Nature, Jobs & Working

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Consonance

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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