"...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.