December 1, 2007

Poetry of the Times

Nine over six mullioned windows,
votive candles lit and flickering on the sill,
shells shipwrecked on top of the double-hungs,
condensed steam clouding each pane,
blocking my view of wind-bent junipers,
yellow-shafted flickers, and the sea.
This is the altar where I worship
and pray for mercy for my failings-
cool distance, the occasional lie,
how I hide behind my white coat's
illusion of purity and perfection,
the thin cotton cloth just
thick enough to cloak my cruelty.

My prayer is to remember the healer
I yearned to become when I started
my studies, before I learned
how much suffering can be buried
in words like bacteremia or bauxite lung,
before my father died and I witnessed
his physician's arrogant sting,
a time when my goals seemed as close
as the green hilltop on the island
across the harbor. What I couldn't know
was the numb, senseless feeling
that comes with a thirty-year swim
through a half-frozen sea, the current
hammering head on, the hilltop
still visible over the unforgiving waves.