In Their Own Time and Place

"...inhuman forces hard at work in their own time and place..."

Richard Berlin, MD, recites his ekphrastic poem "Two Hundred Thousand" inspired by the photo "Stark Tree, 1956" by Wynn Bullock.

Two Hundred Thousand

-from the photograph “Stark Tree, 1956,” by Wynn Bullock

Fall arrived too early, swamp maples ablaze

in August, Summer Rose apples withered

by drought, smoke from California fires graying

Berkshire sky to winter, and two hundred thousand

of us killed by virus, our landscape as foreign

as Bullock’s silhouettes of two hills and a valley

filled with moonlit fog, one stark tree

in the foreground, tortured limbs

and spiny black branches, a vulture’s nest

woven into the highest fork, threatening sky

with a faceless full moon glowing through a cloud

contorted like the tree, mist riding wind

with its damp smell of decay, inhuman

forces hard at work in their own time and place.

-Richmond, Massachusetts, 9/22/20

Dr Berlin is an instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.