Saturday, February 5, 2011

Poetry Prompt #42 – From the Medicine Cabinet

I recently saw a video about a teaching hospital in Florida where patients' lives have been "dramatically changed by the incorporation of poetry into their recovery process."

To view article and video, click here:

Poetry has been a source of healing in my own life, and I thought it might be interesting to incorporate poetry and medicine in this week's prompt. From Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound to Carter's Little Liver Pills, and from Band-Aids to razor blades, medicine cabinets have housed a wide range of indispensables for many generations. This week, reach into your medicine cabinet and pull out a poem!

1. Patent medicines of the past were found in 18th and 19th century medicine cabinets and chests. The term "patent medicine" is generally associated with drug compounds made during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. Although few were actually patented, these questionable remedies were openly sold to the public with no prescription required. Make up your own patent medicine or elixir? What does it cure?

2. Do you remember mercurochrome, merthiolate, and iodine from your childhood? (Back in the 50s and 60s, most medicine cabinets contained these items, which were used to treat minor scrapes and cuts. Of the three, iodine was the most dreaded by children because it stung – if the injury wasn't cause for tears, iodine often was.) Write a poem about something in your childhood medicine cabinet or, alternatively, write a poem about a childhood incident in which an old medicine cabinet items plays a role (or at least gets a mention).

3. We've all heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Write a funny poem about a medicine cabinet or a medicine cabinet item.

4. What's your "best medicine?" What's the one thing in your metaphorical medicine cabinet that best heals the stresses and hurts of your life: the sea at night, a walk in the forest, gardening, nature, faith, food, your spouse or partner, being among animals, your dog or cat, special friends? Write a poem about your best medicine or what you keep in your metaphorical medicine cabinet to heal your spirit.

5. Read Emily Dickinson's "It Knew No Medicine." Does this poem spark any "medicine poem" ideas for you? "It Knew No Medicine" by Emily Dickinson

If poetry has been healing for you, 
consider writing a poem or posting a comment about it. 
Your sharing is always welcome!


  1. This prompt makes me think of William Carlos Williams who was a medical doctor and a poet.

  2. And he was wonderfully successful at both! Thanks, Bob!

  3. No one ever comes to say “Hello” anymore
    They only say - “Good-Bye”

    I thought it would be difficult facing death
    but found instead,
    more difficulty facing friends -
    who come to watch me die.

    Troubled contemplating my pain
    searching for words
    lost in their own anguish.
    They pity me - and so –
    worry about my death
    inter me in this bed
    make uncomfortable conversation
    move to leave quickly.

    They enter my room tentatively, quietly,
    as they would a funeral home….;

    “it will be okay”


    “we are praying for you”


    “we are so sorry”


    “we didn’t know”.

    They ask what they can do -
    just before they say “good-bye.”

    I regret…
    no one comes to say “hello”, anymore
    they only say “good-bye”.

    Ray Brown

  4. Take Two Poems and Call Me in the Morning

    My girlfriend spent the afternoon on Facebook
    relating her problems to the world, and me.
    Her boss (as if he doesn’t read Facebook) -
    Her girlfriend in the cubicle next to her -
    Her hairstylist who did not do her do - correctly
    - a few streaks out of place.

    I read about them over again,
    retweeted later that afternoon on Twitter
    in a late edition
    with some new information about me
    (as if I don’t read Tweet).

    That night, the snow storm kept me captive.
    By text message I received the Warner Wolfe highlight film.
    She - headed for a migraine.

    I telephoned her,
    (an ancient application on my IPhone)
    She answered, she was busy,
    why was I calling, an emergency?
    Just wanted to talk....
    You could have just texted me -
    stressed out,
    I don't have time.

    She needed to chill.

    I had checked with the savage beast,
    to see if music could produce some soothing release---
    She though,
    well beyond the boundary that music could aleve.

    I could only lament:
    take two poems and call me in the morning.

    Ray Brown

  5. Thanks so much for posting a second poem, Ray! Your sharing is much appreciated, and I'm sure the blog readers are enjoying your words.

  6. Thanks, Adele! And thanks to Ray Brown for posting his poems. It's always a joy to visit here.


  7. Is it possible to use a recessed medicine cabinet in a house constructed at the turn of the century?