Apology

November 1, 1998
Volume 15, Issue 11

Apology - Poetry of the Times

High above a northern coast
I read my poems to William
   and Father Paul.
A cormorant speeds down a shore
lined with granite boulders
black as dead men's teeth.
I've been over my head in this winter
   sea,
bones aching cold from all the dead
   and dying
I've held this drowning year:
William alone in a hospital room
plastic tubes streaming like seaweed;
Father Paul alone in the rectory,
electricity burning his legs,
his smile and wasted hand
trembling an offer of gold-wrapped
   chocolate.
My own distant father drifts here, too,
always dying in Piscataway, N.J.
William paints now on a warmer coast
and believes he is cured.
Father Paul died in his sleep.
And I cry survivor's guilt,
apologize for stealing their pain
for poems, ashamed of my living greed,
like a sailor flailing
for a piece of wreckage as he swallows
the ocean and his own tears,
a moaner buoy somewhere in the
   distance
the only voice he hears.
© CME LLC
11/98

Dr. Berlin is in private practice in Lenox, Mass., and is associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts.

Read more of Dr. Berlin's work.