McDoc

Just another Medical Humanities Blog

Posts Tagged ‘vernal poems’

Poems for March 2012

Posted by mcdoc on March 1, 2012

Franz Wright
(1953 – )

The Hawk

Maybe in a million years
a better form of human
being will come, happier
and more intelligent. A few already
have infiltrated this world and lived
to very much regret it,
I suppose.
Me,
I’d prefer to have come
in the form of that hawk, floating over
the mirroring fire
of Clearlake’s
hill, my gold
skull filled with nothing
but God’s will
the whole day through, instead
of these glinting voices incessantly
unerringly guiding me
to pursue
what makes me sick, and not to
what makes me glad. And yet
I am changing: this three-pound lump
of sentient meat electrified
by hope and terror has learned to hear
His silence like the sun,
and sought to change!
And friends
on earth at the same time
as me, listen: from the sound of those crickets
last night, Rene Char said
prenatal life
must have been sweet –
each voice perhaps also a star
in that night
from which
this time
we won’t be
interrupted anymore – but
fellow monsters while we are still here, for one minute, think
about this: there is someone right now who is looking
to you, not Him, for whatever
love still exists.

Stephen Dobyns
(1941- )

Sun Gazers

My stepdaughter is three and we have some games
we play when she gets back from day care and I
have finished my work for the day. In one game,
while I try to find her she climbs on a chair
and closes her eyes because with her eyes shut
she thinks I can’t see her but must prowl around
calling her name, which I do to amuse her.
Then tiptoeing back I give her a slight poke,
which pleases her as proof of my cleverness,
that I’ve found her secret place in all that dark.
The mind too, I think, has many eyes, which we
open one by one, as if the world’s too bright,
as waking at night and turning on the lamp
I keep an eye squinched shut and feel unprepared
to face the glare. My stepdaughter with eyes shut
feels safe as I circle her dark hiding place—
to look around her means perceiving danger,
yet soon she will come to look into the light.
Death too is a kind of light, a larger sun
we spend our lives learning to look into
as if by seeing we might defeat our end,
like those Indian holy men who live by
staring at the sun, trying to discover
what lies past common sight, and so die blind.

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Poems for May 2011

Posted by mcdoc on May 1, 2011

James Wright
(1927 – 1980)

A Blessing

Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Julia Kasdorf
(1962 – )

What I Learned From My Mother

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy as though I understood loss, even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease pain.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this,
To every house you enter, you offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your touch.

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Poems for May 2010

Posted by mcdoc on May 10, 2010

Margaret Holley

Rabbit

In warm May dusk
when hemlocks lace the evening sun
over lilly-of-the-valley,

when the lawn grows lush
and the dewbelled grass
milky with mist by the fieldstone church,

the evening estate of peace
belongs to the wild rabbits
that browse in clover and white violets

pausing for footfalls,
the wild salad waving in their teeth,
reluctant to retreat,

as if to say, Remember
this world? Remember this sabbath
and evergreen air and how

the dogwood petals float
becalmed on the warmth like bridal boats
under the stained-glass stories?

One green dusk
I came upon a brown cottontail
lying leonine in his wilderness,

hind legs to the side,
translucent ears pulsing with attention,
not two yards between us, watching me,

both of us at the border
of comprehension, no way to cross over
and no will to run away

from such angelic eyes,
that wait, as real as dream,
behind the sleep of our distracted days.

Galway Kinnell (1927- )

Parkinson’s Disease

While spoon-feeding him with one hand
she holds his hand with her other hand,
or rather lets it rest on top of his,
which is permanently clenched shut.
When he turns his head away, she reaches
around and puts in the spoonful blind.
He will not accept the next morsel
until he has completely chewed this one.
His bright squint tells her he finds
the shrimp she has just put in delicious.
Next to the voice and touch of those we love,
food may be our last pleasure on earth—
a man on death row takes his T-bone
in small bites and swishes each sip
of the jug wine around in his mouth,
tomorrow will be too late for them to jolt
this supper out of him. She strokes
his head very slowly, as if to cheer up
each separate discomfited hair sticking up
from its root in his stricken brain.
Standing behind him, she presses
her check to his, kisses his jowl,
and his eyes seem to stop seeing
and do nothing but emit light.
Could heaven be a time, after we are dead,
of remembering the knowledge
flesh had from flesh? The flesh
of his face is hard, perhaps
from years spent facing down others
until they fell back, and harder
from years of being himself faced down
and falling back in his turn, and harder still
from all the while frowning
and beaming and worrying and shouting
and probably letting go in rages.
His face softens into a kind
of quizzical wince, as if one
of the other animals were working at
getting the knack of the human smile.
When picking up a cookie he uses
both thumbtips to grip it
and push it against an index finger
to secure it so that he can lift it.
She takes him then to the bathroom,
where she lowers his pants and removes
the wet diaper and holds the spout of the bottle
to his old penis until he pisses all he can,
then puts on the fresh diaper and pulls up his pants.
When they come out, she is facing him,
walking backwards in front of him
and holding his hands, pulling him
when he stops, reminding him to step
when he forgets and starts to pitch forward.
She is leading her old father into the future
as far as they can go, and she is walking
him back into her childhood, where she stood
in bare feet on the toes of his shoes
and they foxtrotted on this same rug.
I watch them closely: she could be teaching him
the last steps that one day she may teach me.
At this moment, he glints and shines,
as if it will be only a small dislocation
for him to pass from this paradise into the next.

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Poems for March 2010

Posted by mcdoc on March 8, 2010

Please consider a donation to support my medical mission to Haiti in April 2010. For more information please click on the fund-o-meter to the right and follow the thread back. Thank you.

Lucille Clifton (June 27, 1936 – February 13, 2010)

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

To hear the poet read her poem aloud click here

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

March: An Ode

I
Ere frost-flower and snow-blossom faded and fell, and the splendour of winter had passed out of sight,
The ways of the woodlands were fairer and stranger than dreams that fulfil us in sleep with delight;
The breath of the mouths of the winds had hardened on tree-tops and branches that glittered and swayed
Such wonders and glories of blossomlike snow or of frost that outlightens all flowers till it fade
That the sea was not lovelier than here was the land, nor the night than the day, nor the day than the night,
Nor the winter sublimer with storm than the spring: such mirth had the madness and might in thee made,
March, master of winds, bright minstrel and marshal of storms that enkindle the season they smite.

II
And now that the rage of thy rapture is satiate with revel and ravin and spoil of the snow,
And the branches it brightened are broken, and shattered the tree-tops that only thy wrath could lay low,
How should not thy lovers rejoice in thee, leader and lord of the year that exults to be born
So strong in thy strength and so glad of thy gladness whose laughter puts winter and sorrow to scorn?
Thou hast shaken the snows from thy wings, and the frost on thy forehead is molten: thy lips are aglow
As a lover’s that kindle with kissing, and earth, with her raiment and tresses yet wasted and torn,
Takes breath as she smiles in the grasp of thy passion to feel through her spirit the sense of thee flow.

III
Fain, fain would we see but again for an hour what the wind and the sun have dispelled and consumed,
Those full deep swan-soft feathers of snow with whose luminous burden the branches implumed
Hung heavily, curved as a half-bent bow, and fledged not as birds are, but petalled as flowers,
Each tree-top and branchlet a pinnacle jewelled and carved, or a fountain that shines as it showers,
But fixed as a fountain is fixed not, and wrought not to last till by time or by tempest entombed,
As a pinnacle carven and gilded of men: for the date of its doom is no more than an hour’s,
One hour of the sun’s when the warm wind wakes him to wither the snow-flowers that froze as they bloomed.

IV
As the sunshine quenches the snowshine; as April subdues thee, and yields up his kingdom to May;
So time overcomes the regret that is born of delight as it passes in passion away,
And leaves but a dream for desire to rejoice in or mourn for with tears or thanksgivings; but thou,
Bright god that art gone from us, maddest and gladdest of months, to what goal hast thou gone from us now?
For somewhere surely the storm of thy laughter that lightens, the beat of thy wings that play,
Must flame as a fire through the world, and the heavens that we know not rejoice in thee: surely thy brow
Hath lost not its radiance of empire, thy spirit the joy that impelled it on quest as for prey.

V
Are thy feet on the ways of the limitless waters, thy wings on the winds of the waste north sea?
Are the fires of the false north dawn over heavens where summer is stormful and strong like thee
Now bright in the sight of thine eyes? are the bastions of icebergs assailed by the blast of thy breath?
Is it March with the wild north world when April is waning? the word that the changed year saith,
Is it echoed to northward with rapture of passion reiterate from spirits triumphant as we
Whose hearts were uplift at the blast of thy clarions as men’s rearisen from a sleep that was death
And kindled to life that was one with the world’s and with thine? hast thou set not the whole world free?

VI
For the breath of thy lips is freedom, and freedom’s the sense of thy spirit, the sound of thy song,
Glad god of the north-east wind, whose heart is as high as the hands of thy kingdom are strong,
Thy kingdom whose empire is terror and joy, twin-featured and fruitful of births divine,
Days lit with the flame of the lamps of the flowers, and nights that are drunken with dew for wine,
And sleep not for joy of the stars that deepen and quicken, a denser and fierier throng,
And the world that thy breath bade whiten and tremble rejoices at heart as they strengthen and shine,
And earth gives thanks for the glory bequeathed her, and knows of thy reign that it wrought not wrong.

VII
Thy spirit is quenched not, albeit we behold not thy face in the crown of the steep sky’s arch,
And the bold first buds of the whin wax golden, and witness arise of the thorn and the larch:
Wild April, enkindled to laughter and storm by the kiss of the wildest of winds that blow,
Calls loud on his brother for witness; his hands that were laden with blossom are sprinkled with snow,
And his lips breathe winter, and laugh, and relent; and the live woods feel not the frost’s flame parch;
For the flame of the spring that consumes not but quickens is felt at the heart of the forest aglow,
And the sparks that enkindled and fed it were strewn from the hands of the gods of the winds of March.

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