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Poems for September 2012

Posted by mcdoc on September 17, 2012

Joseph Mills

The Guardian

I don’t think my brother realized all
the responsibilities involved in being
her guardian, not just the paperwork
but the trips to the dentist and Wal-Mart,
the making sure she has underwear,
money to buy Pepsis, the crying calls
because she has no shampoo even though
he has bought her several bottles recently.
We talk about how he might bring this up
with the staff, how best to delicately ask
if they’re using her shampoo on others
or maybe just allowing her too much.
“You only need a little, Mom,” he said,
“Not a handful.” “I don’t have any!”
she shouted before hanging up. Later
he finds a bottle stashed in her closet
and two more hidden in the bathroom
along with crackers, spoons, and socks.
Afraid someone might steal her things,
she hides them, but then not only forgets
where, but that she ever had them at all.

I tease my brother, “You always wanted
another kid.” He doesn’t laugh. She hated
her father, and, in this second childhood,
she resents the one who takes care of her.
When I call, she complains about how
my brother treats her and how she hasn’t
seen him in years. If I explain everything
he’s doing, she admires the way I stick up
for him. Doing nothing means I do nothing
wrong. This is love’s blindness and love’s
injustice. It’s why I expect to hear anger
or bitterness in my brother’s voice, and why
each time we talk, no matter how closely
I listen, I’m astonished to hear only love.

“The Guardian” by Joseph Mills, from Love and Other Collisions. Published by Press 53, © Joseph Mills, 2010.

John O’Donohue
(1956 – 2008)

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

“For a New Beginning” by John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. Published by Harmony Books, © John O’Donohue, 2008.

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Poems for January 2012

Posted by mcdoc on January 6, 2012

David Salner

On the Iron Range, Where I Tossed My First Book of Poems

I tossed my first book of poems into a trash can
outside a mine. It was a hot day – the book
stirred up yellow jackets feasting on soda cans.

So I hurried into the locker room, which we called
a “dry,” because that’s where our coveralls
hung from a chain in the ceiling, with the legs

outstretched like the skins of large animals –
still wet when we climbed back into them.
I worked in the mine, patrolling a rotary kiln,

the largest in the world, said the company,
All night it rolled like a great whale 
in bearings the size of my house.

My partner told stories about the old days
when he drank at Tony’s instead of going home
to sleep—and then passed out in the gray mud

under the filter floor. We laughed and talked
as the machines splattered mud all over us.
Later that winter—after the hunters

had divided the deer into neat packages
and the fishermen had begun putting wood stoves
into their ice-houses, and after the snowmobilers

had begun cruising under bridges
and into forbidden areas—I skied to the top
of an old tailings dump, where all I could see

were Spruce and Tamarack rising from the stillness
of an ocean frozen under feet of snow
all the way to Lake Superior—a silent ocean

in which I could no longer hear the crushers
gyrating boulders of iron
at the edge of the sleepy town. Then Christmas:

U.S. Steel laid us off by the thousands,
and I left the Iron Range,
where I’d tossed my first book of poems.

Mary Oliver
(1935 – )

Am I Not Among The Early Risers

Am I not among the early risers
and the long-distance walkers?

Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider
the perfection of the morning star
above the peaks of the houses, and the crowns of the trees
blue in the first light?
Do I not see how the trees tremble, as though
sheets of water flowed over them
though it is only wind, that common thing,
free to everyone, and everything?

Have I not thought, for years, what it would be
worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,
to gather blueberries,
thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?

What will ambition do for me that the fox, appearing suddenly
at the top of the field,
her eyes sharp and confident as she stared into mine,
has not already done?

What countries, what visitations,
what pomp
would satisfy me as thoroughly as Blackwater Woods
on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?

Here is an amazement—once I was twenty years old and in
every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

Above the modest house and the palace—the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.
Above the child who will recover and the child who will
not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

I bow down.

Have I not loved as though the beloved could vanish at any moment,
or become preoccupied, or whisper a name other that mine
in the stretched curvatures of lust, or over the dinner table?
Have I ever taken good fortune for granted?

Have I not, every spring, befriended the swarm that pours forth?
Have I not summoned the honey-man to come, to hurry,
to bring with him the white and comfortable hive?

And while I waited, have I not leaned close, to see everything?
Have I not been stung as I watched their milling and gleaming,
and stung hard?

Have I not been ready always at the iron door,
not knowing to what country it opens—to death or to more life?

Have I ever said that the day was too hot or too cold
or the night too long and as black as oil anyway,
or the morning, washed blue and emptied entirely
of the second-rate, less than happiness

as I stepped down from the porch and set out along
the green paths of the world?

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Poems for September 2011

Posted by mcdoc on September 6, 2011

Freya Manfred
(1944-)

Green Pear Tree in September

On a hill overlooking the Rock River
my father’s pear tree shimmers,
in perfect peace,
covered with hundreds of ripe pears
with pert tops, plump bottoms,
and long curved leaves.
Until the green-haloed tree
rose up and sang hello,
I had forgotten…
He planted it twelve years ago,
when he was seventy-three,
so that in September
he could stroll down
with the sound of the crickets
rising and falling around him,
and stand, naked to the waist,
slightly bent, sucking juice
from a ripe pear.

Lynn Ungar

Boundaries

The universe does not
revolve around you.
The stars and planets spinning
through the ballroom of space
dance with one another
quite outside of your small life.
You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless or ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.
Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again. Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

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Poems for June 2011

Posted by mcdoc on June 8, 2011

Marge Piercy
(1936 – )

The tao of touch

What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

Yet the touch of a stranger
the bumping or predatory thrust
in the subway is like a slap.
We long for the familiar, the open
palm of love, its tender fingers.
It is our hands that tamed cats
into pets, not our food.

The widow looks in the mirror
thinking, no one will ever touch
me again, never. Not hold me.
Not caress the softness of my
breasts, my inner thighs, the swell
of my belly. Do I still live
if no one knows my body?

We touch each other so many
ways, in curiosity, in anger,
to command attention, to soothe,
to quiet, to rouse, to cure.
Touch is our first language
and often, our last as the breath
ebbs and a hand closes our eyes.

Arthur Sze
(1950 – )

The Unnamable River

1.

Is it in the anthracite face of a coal miner,
crystallized in the veins and lungs of a steel
worker, pulverized in the grimy hands of a railroad engineer?
Is it in a child naming a star, coconuts washing
ashore, dormant in a volcano along the Rio Grande?

You can travel the four thousand miles of the Nile
to its source and never find it.
You can climb the five highest peaks of the Himalayas
and never recognize it.
You can gaze though the largest telescope
and never see it.

But it’s in the capillaries of your lungs.
It’s in the space as you slice open a lemon.
It’s in a corpse burning on the Ganges,
in rain splashing on banana leaves.

Perhaps you have to know you are about to die
to hunger for it. Perhaps you have to go
alone in the jungle armed with a spear
to truly see it. Perhaps you have to
have pneumonia to sense its crush.

But it’s also in the scissor hands of a clock.
It’s in the precessing motion of a top
when a torque makes the axis of rotation describe a cone:
and the cone spinning on a point gathers
past, present, future.

2.

In a crude theory of perception, the apple you
see is supposed to be a copy of the actual apple,
but who can step out of his body to compare the two?
Who can step out of his life and feel
the Milky Way flow out of his hands?

An unpicked apple dies on a branch:
that is all we know of it.
It turns black and hard, a corpse on the Ganges.
Then go ahead and map out three thousand mile of the Yantze;
walk each inch, feel its surge and
flow as you feel the surge and flow in your own body.

And the spinning cone of a precessing top
is a form of existence that gathers and spins death and life into one.
It is in the duration of words, but beyond words –
river river river, river river.
The coal miner may not know he has it.
The steel worker may not know he has it.
The railroad engineer may not know he has it.
But it is there. It is in the smell
of an avocado blossom, and in the true passion of a kiss.

Posted in Monthly Poetry Installment, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stories in the Service of Making a Better Doctor

Posted by mcdoc on November 2, 2008

New York Times
HEALTH | October 24, 2008
Doctor and Patient: Stories in the Service of Making a Better Doctor
By PAULINE W. CHEN, M.D.
Narrative medicine employs short stories, poems and essays to build empathy in young doctors.

Posted in medical humanities, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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