Note to Pablo Neruda

June 7, 2011
Richard M. Berlin, MD
Volume 28, Issue 5

Long ago, when I became a doctor . . .I heard the sounds of pheasants drumming . . .in our chests, studied our eggs, our courtship

I wake to dawn’s pink light and palm warblers

twitching their tails as they feed in the pines

and I recall your line: “I was only

a tunnel. The birds fled from me.” I pull

your book from the shelf, study your picture-

a middle-aged man wearing a white shirt

and British cap, hands clasped, warm, sad, knowing

eyes looking into mine. I hear you ask,

“Do birds fly from you, too,” and I answer,

Long ago, when I became a doctor

I heard the sounds of pheasants drumming

in our chests, studied our eggs, our courtship

flight, the paper and nails we use to build

our nests, the long fall before we hit the ground.

My first patients gathered like winter song-

birds with their hungers and their fears, and late

at night I would read your poems, flowing

like an infinite black river, your words

carrying me high as crows when they harvest

morning stars in the heavens of their beaks.