She has toiled, she has wept,
Mornings of cold and fatigue,
She has bit odds and awoken,
Yet today, she smiles,
There is Nothing to Say
There is nothing to say—
this moment, now, with you,
is so fragile, so transient that
it can only be known but
never expressed or spoken . . .
Shiny wire rims encircle wrinkled eyelids,
pinkish chiffon veils gliding across Sycamore orbs;
cornflower blue sclera injected with burgundy webs,
underlined by ashen puffs of fatigue.
The contents are “time-sensitive.”
I slit the envelope with my finger.
St. Vincent Hospital
Gray skies spread above us like lace
on a communion tray.
Inside, they fed my father
March of the Basal Cells
He carved a spot of skin today, and then another,
The slice all stained to find the danger,
In search of foes, to map the border.
Just a bit more, he dug in deeper.
What moves, shore or ship,
when souls sail, blinking,
heartbeat . . . a blip,
yonder fog engaged,
muted by seas
I find myself starting to repeat
the names, like Mom did,
from the top, so she could get
to the one she wanted.
Cough cold, fever, and chills
Here’s the season of growing medical bills
Important LOVE Information
LOVE is not for everyone.
Avoid LOVE if you are not prepared, as this may cause a sudden, unsafe drop in blood pressure.
No one will know, now, or care
that, in your rush this morning,
you grabbed one dark blue sock
and one black in the rumpled sock drawer.
After the Hospital
A week ago, you thought the next breath could be your last.
The family and friends were buzzing with worry
and all visited you in such a scurry.
The nurses and doctors fixed you—quite fast!
Rushing through the Foliage (秋色急馳)
I sometimes just felt the reds and yellows randomly cutting through the greens, but without thinking, without appreciation, without judgment.
The Beloved Leaves Without Goodbye
Roses from Susan and a christening
into what I have no idea of.
On Terminal Disease Square, at the intersection of Doubt and Despair, live the Benders of time,
The Art of Sighing
The art of sighing isn’t hard to master;
each day greets us with news of fresh disaster.
You could fly for an instant
whole body in separate hands
cupped and held hands
you could fly when they let you
Her mom’s been bleeding for days.
Transfusion after transfusion
As if her veins were sieves
Going Out on the Ice
Nanuk thought it was time,
time to go out on the ice,
to relieve her family of one more useless
mouth to feed during this hungry time
We’re all Gatsby, always have been, standing lonely on our own pier,
Looking for the certain future, rich as Croesus, really, in this world,
Food, rent, man, and printed books online. It’s all on line!
Under the dresser
a small plastic button
uncovered as if
all of the sudden,
Field Notebook at Tinicum
I could have used the set of traveling colors,
the brush with its barrel of water.
They still call it that
Even though now it’s all just screen time
Of course it is day
In the beginning there is chaos.
Alarms and running and pressured orders.
A conglomerate of people with a shared goal.
I laugh when others laugh,
but offer naught to conversation;
standing still against a shaded wall
observing without participation.
An Early Snow
as white hens. Amaranth
bleeds scarlet on the snow.
Night Sounds in the Time of Covid
Midnight. Sleep eludes me.
As hours pass, my brain is full
of the usual black dogs
Med School Interview, 1975
I’m twenty-one, touring a Chicago hospital in a dirty-snow winter, trailing a student who raves about the school, its illustrious doctors.
I remember her clumping tread
the rubber-tipped cane
striking the floor before
the halt-slide step
Iwo Jima Diary
In a slot of Grandma Ada’s rolltop
I found a hand-colored photo
of Uncle D. in his Marine uniform, smiling,
eyes bluer than the overbright sky
of the hand-tinted tropical backdrop
You will care for them when it’s time
With static eyes, pores firing off sweat,
Writing Checks After Death
The guy in charge of the cemetery
said I would like this site.
It has a seasonal view, Mead’s Mountain in winter,
and you can hear the stream year-round.
I saw geraniums
in the first snow,
and one yellow daisy.
What will one sacrifice
physicians spend a lifetime,
to save another.
We Were Supposed to Grow Old Together
People flicker out. Each of us has an unknown
The Tragedy of Apples
It was a fine Sunday morning
when I felt the first sign.
Buries face in hands
Staggers shadeless sidewalk
We named you posthumously
since you died the same day
as the prince
Pain Lives in Both Misery and Joy (with Commentary by Billy Thomas, M.D.)
Pain lives in both misery and joy, respectively
it is the volume and projection that differs among them.
His age and comorbidities were now rehearsed and repeated without effort daily,
His short years of existence now condensed to a list of clinical diagnoses
Meet me after midnight
at the place all lovers go
at the edge of names and words
and of everything we know
Those shoes have traveled far
And borne their wearer well
To tend to newborn cries
And lift where others fell
What I Know
She ties a string around my shoe
to remind me what day it is,
I try to hold on,
knowing right from left – memories.
I didn’t think she’d be here
for the birth of her first grandchild,
but you never know what a ghost will do
Mid afternoon, bright winter’s day
A string of headlights coming my way
The deliberate solemn caravan gives pause for reflection
The Box: A haiku
A hungry stomach
When I finish morning rounds
I’ll take one box please
In the Dark
They turned off the lights
in the hallway and area where I was seated.
The maintenance man was working
on some problem he
was having with the lights,
so there I was,
in the dark,
like I had been my whole life.
Elegy for Eight Words
The barricade was built on my car
dashboard during my daily drive,
petit Gavroche shot
in the forty-fourth CD.
Cutting Out Paper Stars
So now she cuts out paper stars,
stenciled onto construction paper.
Light refracted to reveal our thoughts and fears
Perhaps too much so.
We are naked to one another’s stares
As if we can no longer conceal the vulnerabilities within.
COVID and Other Blue Moods Tanka
Always up for schwitz
In sauna, hot tub or springs
To rid self of bad
Humors/tumors, dread virus
–I would rather not be dead.
Whatever else may happen
to a man on his back for six months,
at least he must become expert on himself.
(His Mother Said) That She Was Eating Cherries
Cancer had chewed away half her mouth and face,
carving the soft palette, chiseling the jawbone,
cutting her cheek out, slicing the tongue lengthwise.
when you got with me I had no idea
it could be a life-sentence you’re an
armed robber holding me under false
imprisonment in my own body
A Spark in the Dark
I am the rose in the desert,
withered for lack of rain.
40° out of 180 – Song of the Scapula
Not even a fourth of possible- that’s all
your arm and you will get without it-
Forty degrees of forward.
She told me that she sat with him
At the dining table.
They had bought some pills,
Had made a pact long ago.
Hot, Cold, then Quiet
The summer was hot enough
that earthworms in my neighborhood
unfortunate enough to crawl
out of the grass onto the sidewalk
fried into curled bits of brown string.
When the night is young, the moon will never fall
or sunrise into day
and for a moment, my thoughts are whole
yet rarely do they stay
I want to know one of your secrets
what you dream about at night
who it is you would die for
what you still want from this life
Hold My Hands Please (A palliative care physician’s reflection)
Please hold my hands, she said.
Is this it? Is this where I am going to die?
I am so exhausted.
I think about you often,
My former teacher.
You died while I was
In graduate school.
I thought of thresholds—
intimations of mortality
in the undiscovered country
of lost dreams.
On my midnight pallet lying,
full of dread and stars in my belly,
I count out all the bones
I had broken in my time:
Waiting For Breakfast in Rehab
The angled morning sun
reveals the grimy streaks
on the windows
as I wait for breakfast.
Through Space and Time
There you are beyond my reach,
Separated by space and barred
From my physical greeting.
The Isolated Room
no place to sleep
just a coffee machine
with no sugar or cream.
Long Term Care
How much of me is you,
And you, me?
When I remember the first of us,
It’s just a blur of becoming.
Mornings & Evenings After Retirement 退休後的晨昏
Unlike ripples fading away,
old dreams can’t be kept at bay.
The Price of a White Coat
More than living. You know, our life. The path is not straight.
Dishes are done and there is quiet.
Trading my phone for stillness, I
Pour half a glass of red in an old jam jar.
You should know this house is
my mother’s; be mad at her; maybe
visit her at Parkview Clinic
There are poems I intend to write
That land on the purgatorial backburner
Never to be revisited
Because the poem was conceived
In a distinct and fleeting moment.
It is a long story. This is a short version: I was about to die.
At Peace and Free
I dreamt I had a garden
in the backyard of a home
that doesn’t actually exist.
White Coat Anonymity
Do you notice me?
Do you see my soul?
Or does attire blind you?
To the Front-Line Healthcare Providers in the Time of COVID-19
In ancient times the knights rode out
to cheers and loud applause,
To fight our foes, those armed heroes, took up our common cause,
The Laundry Cycle
Do you ever feel like a shirt,
With wooden clips pinning your shoulders to the line,
Left blowing in the wind to dry,
There are days I am disillusioned,
When I am bereft of my purpose,
Alone in my office,
On a lazy Sunday,
I sit in the sun,
reading a book by the swing.
Some shadows watch over
the unturned page,
Princess bedside and stand-up telephones. Landlines. Ma Bell. Telephone booths. Victrolas. 78 and 45 rpm records. Ash trays. Analog photography.Alarm clocks. Walkman. Transistor radios.Beta and VHS. Tape cassettes.Vacuum tubes. IBM desktop typewriters. Blockbuster stores. Telegrams.News reels at the movies. Air mail and Special Delivery.Three cent stamps. Fountain pens. Oldsmobile. Pontiac. Nash Rambler. Plymouth.Spark plugs. Packard. Edsel. Rumble seats. Leaded gasoline. Rhodesia. […]
high tech and high touch
treatment scans and MRI’s
where is the high touch
Ode to Blessed Assurance
I felt the ache in my head,
The cranial vessels’ pulsing beat,
My restless, trembling legs in bed,
The tingling in the soles of my feet.
Moments in Passing
I walk past the morgue in the hospital
Underbelly on my way to the key shop,
Resigned to replacing the keys I lost
Two weeks ago.
It’s times like these, with the certainty of our assumptions, no longer certain,that bring a richer appreciation for the touchstones and the lifelines, for the heartfelt friends and the fond rituals that carry us through each day,for the ones who remind us our roots hold braided branches strong enough to bear roses, and of all the reasons, like […]
When I am old, I want to look back
And feel like my life really mattered.
Epic, open, please!
Numerous charts to complete.
Will you ever load?
Beautiful life so often forsaken
Let sounds of the night gently awaken
The burning desire to live
A mother in the NICU
waiting room thinks aloud,
If God were listening