A Lobsterman Looks at the Sea

July 24, 2015

His new hip healed in, we’re working on a bluff, talking doctors and health care reform as we shove a new propane tank into place...

His new hip healed in, we’re working

on a bluff, talking doctors and health care

reform as we shove a new propane tank into place.

A shape on the surface catches his eye:

“Right whale” he says, but I can only see

endless swells rolling in from the east.

He points out the gradations of gray

and green that mark deep ledge, the tide’s

shape along the islands and rocks,

the whale’s glistening back suddenly in focus.

And I react with the same surprise

my patients feel when I observe

what they can’t see-

a sudden shift in gaze, or a crease in a cheek,

and I understand how a doctor becomes

like a man who has spent sixty years

on a lobster boat, watching the world

swim fast and shining, right before his eyes.

This poem received a “Commended” award for The Hippocrates Prize for poetry, an international award for poetry on a medical subject, 2012.