On the Subject of Doctors

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
I like to see doctors cough.
What kind of human being
would grab all your money
just when you're down?
I'm not saying they enjoy this:
"Sorry, Mr. Rodriguez, that's it,
no hope! You might as well
hand over your wallet." Hell no,
they'd rather be playing golf
and swapping jokes about our feet.

Some of them smoke marijuana
and are alcoholics, and their moral
turpitude is famous: who gets to see
most sex organs in the world? Not
poets. With the hours they keep
they need drugs more than anyone.
Germ city, there's no hope
looking down those fire-engine throats.
They're bound to get sick themselves
sometime; and I happen to be there
myself in a high fever
taking my plastic medicine seriously
with the doctors, who are dying.

James Tate, "On the Subject of Doctors" in Selected Poems © 1991 by James Tate and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)

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Poet James Tate b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Sciences, Jobs & Working, Activities, Humor & Satire

 James  Tate


James Tate’s poems have been described as tragic, comic, absurdist, nihilistic, hopeful, haunting, lonely, and surreal. His many poetry collections include The Ghost Soldiers (2008); Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994), which won the National Book Award; Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Constant Defender (1983); Viper Jazz (1976); and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Sciences, Jobs & Working, Activities, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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