"...my father’s spade saving last year’s mud, a long-tined rake, the swan-neck hoe..."
POETRY OF THE TIMES
-for Barry Sternlieb
They hang from the rack:
my father’s spade saving last year’s mud,
a long-tined rake, the swan-neck hoe.
Each spring, when earth warms and begs
me to open its dark skin, I carry them
past flowering apples and pears to the quiet
square of garden, to excite what lies buried
beneath the surface. The spade slices deep,
turns clay and compost in a wet, fertile dough
combed smooth by the rake’s thin hand.
The graceful hoe chops dandelions
that intrude like obsessions
and waits patiently to scrape purslane
when it grows fast as jealousy in July.
I love their simple handles, the smooth taper
of oiled oak and ash, their honest grains
spiraling like a patient’s thoughts.
My psychiatrist tools are simple too:
a room with a closed door, a few chairs, pills,
and packets of words I cultivate like, that hurts or yes, I see,
words that smooth a surface or dig up something dormant
like last year’s seeds stirred from below
whispering green shoots toward the first hope of warmth.
Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 25 years in Psychiatric Times in a column called “Poetry of the Times.” He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. His latest book is Freud on My Couch.