Wednesday, November 5, 2014

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)
 and maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly 
she couldn’t remember her troubles,and 
 milly befriended a stranded star 
whose rays five languid fingers were; 
and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and 
may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.  
 For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
-- ee cummings 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

the layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
 When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
 Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
 How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
 Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
 In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
 “Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
 I am not done with my changes.
-- stanley kunitz

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

the prairie town

 Lovers of beauty laugh at this grey town,
     Where dust lies thick on ragged curb-side trees,
And compass-needle streets lead up and down
     And lose themselves in empty prairie seas.

Here is no winding scented lane, no hill
     Crowned with a steepled church, no garden wall
Of old grey stone where lilacs bloom, and fill
     The air with fragrance when the May rains fall.

But here is the unsoftened majesty
     Of the wide earth where all the wide streets end,
And from the dusty corner one may see
     The full moon rise, and flaming sun descend.
The long main street, whence farmers’ teams go forth,
Lies like an old sea road, star-pointed north.

- helen l.

a gift

See! I give myself to you, Beloved!
My words are little jars
For you to take and put upon a shelf.
Their shapes are quaint and beautiful,
And they have many pleasant colours and lusters
To recommend them.
Also the scent from them fills the room
With sweetness of flowers and crushed grasses.

When I shall have given you the last one,
You will have the whole of me,
But I shall be dead.

-- amy lowell

Monday, September 1, 2014

social autopsy

in december 2013, during my last year of medical school, i took a forensic pathology elective at the st. louis city medical examiner's office. the requirements included showing up in the morning, reading through the day's 2-4 cases and observing autopsies. the overwhelming majority of cases that came through the door were homicides, and at least two thirds of these were young black men who died by gunshot wounds. every morning, a 22 year old, an 18 year old, 24, 23, 27 - an incessant parade of young black deaths each week, typically from the same neighborhoods around north and south city.

the first week of my elective also coincided with the anniversary of sandy hook; the leading headlines and articles of that week questioned how far we'd come since the tragedy in preventing violence like that from happening again. and yet, no mention of the sandy hooks happening every week and month in my city, or how to prevent the violence inflicted over and over again on the communities and youths of these neighborhoods, a ravaging and crippling violence which takes place daily in the absence of headlines, in the absence of national outrage, in the absence of attention and effort from those who have the power to make change on a systems level. it is truly terrifying when a society learns to ignore the repeated pains and suffering of a large swath of its population, such that it becomes not worthy of mention and, by way of lack of action or investment from political leaders, acceptable.

i wrote this poem during my rotation, in december 2013. eight months later, michael brown's death and related protests have made these issues relevant in national news, but no more relevant than it is everyday to thousands of young men and women in neighborhoods across the US who risk being killed just by living in their communities, knowing that those in power are doing shamefully too little to help them.

autopsy case #116

out of many, one
young black male
lying cold on this metal table.

out of many, one
in his chest,
traced beyond
tissue and trigger
to a nation of backs turned.

out of many, one
beloved son

The examiner makes a Y incision,
and we all bleed.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

sleeping in the forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,

arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,

nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.


All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.


All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

- mary oliver, 'sleeping in the forest'

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


So different, this man 
And this woman: 
A stream flowing 
In a field.

- william carlos williams

Friday, June 28, 2013

that's what she said

Women, it is now acknowledged, have the talent, capacity, and right “to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation.” Their ability to realize their full potential, the Court recognized, is intimately connected to “their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Thus, legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.
Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 171-72 (2007) (dissenting) (citations omitted), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

how your momma made you