After Reading “Music from Apartment 8”-for John Stone, MD

August 1, 2008

When I started out in medicine,before I married and beforeI had written a single poem,I read your poetry like a hiker

When I started out in medicine,
before I married and before
I had written a single poem,
I read your poetry like a hiker
on a treacherous trail who finally
stops to rest and drink and admire
the view of snow-capped peaks.
Three decades later I imagine you,
ten years younger than my father
would be if bad genes, bad luck, and bad
doctoring hadn’t killed him long ago.
Without a father to guide me north,
your poems were a compass
pointing toward a world
where doctors can be poets,
where the pulse of each line
begins with the heartbeat we hear
when we bend close to our patients.
I pray you, too, are drinking deep
from whatever stream brings you
to your knees, and I hope
you can hear my boots striding
behind yours, cracked from the heat,
covered with dust, both soles still strong.