Tuesday, July 5, 2022

poem

 Op Note XXVI

I like to think I’ve gotten better at this as time goes on.  Fifteen years a surgeon, you learn a few tricks.  Whip out a gallbladder lickety split. Slide along the planes of action. Spot the hidden vessel.  Some cases it’s almost elegant.  But never anything close to art.  The best we can get in this gig is mechanical, the cold uncanny beauty of something approximating a machine. Actual machines are never beautiful.  Awe inspiring, maybe. Useful. Precise. Remorseless.  A hint of indescribable dread. Dogged relentlessness. The perfect soldier, in other words.  Art is something else. Only we can do it. But once you strike those heights how do you match it?  Do it again, someone says.  Only “again” isn’t enough.  It has to be something else; higher, better, more extraordinary.  Imagine that, for the rest of your life toiling away in the drudgery of mediocrity when only the sublime counts.  End up like Hemingway, never evolving beyond that perfect first chapter of A Farewell to Arms, the dust powdering the leaves of his trees, repeating himself in ever more derivative patterns spiraling into self parody with a shotgun poised against his head.  Me, I could operate all day without a single glance toward posterity.  Line ‘em up. One after another.  Filling up the foreseeable days. No one pays to watch. It’s simply the work of the preservationist.  Nothing destroyed, but not a single thing created. No manuscripts to self loathingly burn. No canvases to smash. Just this: a morning clinic followed by an afternoon of bread and butter cases. Then, inevitably, several ER add-ons that take me far into the night.  I’m not a machine but it's pretty damn close.

7/5/22

Sunday, July 3, 2022

poem

 Porthole

Love is a porthole

In the giant iron box

We’ve all been born into 

First you find a portal

To see what everyone else sees:

This is a tree

There’s a squirrel

This, we call a street

All that above is blue

While below we call green 

Millions of tiny gaps

In the firmament 

Of isolated lookingness

Gazing out on the world

Agreeing on a language

That is cold and precise 

While love is a less lonesome view

Shared with someone just like you

Where I can say

You know, the grass 

Today has a purplish hue

Dusted with splashes

Of blooming clover 

And you touch my hand

In a gesture of assent   

Which means:

Yes my love,

I see that too 


7/2/22

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Poem

 Van Gogh

At the Van Gogh exhibit she 

Turned to me and asked why

All the great artists seemed to succumb 

To madness or suicide.


Bruised swaths of despair swirled 

And looped into skies of trembling flesh.

I saw that her forehead had coiled 

Yellow into a writhing full moon.


Everything was vibratingly alive,

Walls melting into the floor

And I was now part of a screen

Where everything played out.


Every color

all the forms

that Thom Yorke song


I recalled the dive bar

Packed with squinty-eyed derelicts

In scuffed boots and flannel shirts

Where we’d stopped for a cheap drink.


We felt like interlopers

Trespassing on burial grounds

Traipsing around in the frontier slivered 

Between debasement and transcendence 


Between the broken and the healed

The limp and the lame

The sadness and acceptance 

The imagined and the real


I whispered back that some whorled 

Souls experienced the world

Exactly the way the Creator 

Had always intended 


But the world pushed back

And made them feel weird,

Taught them to believe such

Whirling visions were things to be feared.



6/29/22

Monday, June 27, 2022

poem

 Reunion

By a fluke of circumstances I was able to meet up for lunch at a trendy downtown brasserie with my past self and future self.  We didn’t know what else to do. Neutral territory, I guess.  Have a few drinks. Break the ice. The comfort of knowing there would be a well defined end. Split the bill, I assumed.  I certainly wasn’t inviting them to my house. Act like they owned the place. Drink all my wine. Make fun of my shoes. Try to fuck my wife. Golf was out too.  Past self played to a 10 handicap but I hadn’t swung a club in years.  Future self didn’t like his chances, given current trends. We thought about meeting at my old childhood neighborhood.  Walk around the black top streets like three weirdos, shooting the shit, cracking a few jokes, getting all caught up, remaining reasonably sane. Future self lagging slightly behind, unfamiliar with this terrain. But past self said that wouldn’t work either.  The closer he gets to his beginning the more unstable he becomes. He starts shape shifting.  One minute a 10 year old boy sniffing the leather of his old hand me down baseball glove, the next a lonely 19 year old calling dollar a minute singles want ads from his father’s office phone, turn your head for a shake and then he’d be a 4 year old boy lumbering around a yard with a giant yellow plastic bat bothering all the adults at the party to pitch to him then transforming into a 23 year old ex-frat boy with a copy of The Sun Also Rises in his back pocket at a bar, hoping by chance some cute razor witted girl would notice and want to strike up a little friendly conversation vis a vis what he really thought of Lady Brett Ashley then getting sucked into the mind of the 34 year old man fully resigned to a future he'd have to fake his way though.  So distracting.  Old me and me fell into an easy rapport, though.  We had a lot in common.  He was a little worried I’d be mad at him for a few things but it was funny, the things I was angry about he couldn't even remember and the things he was worried about I just started laughing. That girl? You didn’t even know how to spell love then.  Besides, she had a lazy eye.  She was from Missouri. And she was obsessed with Koi ponds.   It would have never worked. And that time you turned your back on writing the Great American Novel?  No worries. I ended up a surgeon. Which is pretty good, not spectacular, but not a bad consolation prize. And that manuscript you were working on really sucked, man. I mean, unreadable sucked. First thing you use for kindling on a desert island sucked. Out of paper, need to print this somewhat important document oh here's a stack of pages someone left we'll just print it all out on the opposite blank side sucked. Future me seemed a little standoffish.  He didn’t speak much.  Sort of a cipher. To be fair, he technically wasn’t really quite there.  His time had yet to come.  But we always knew where he was.  Always aware of his impending presence. His future judgment. Of course, I'm future self to past self. Past self doesn’t even know there’s someone beyond me. I promised not to tell.  Of course I got stuck with the bill.  Past me pleaded inflation.  Future me didn’t have a body let alone a wallet. At one point it was clear he had gone.  We knew he couldn't have gone far. I left the tip and we went chasing after him again, spilling ourselves headlong out into the darkest of nights. This time we were guided by stars. 


6/27/22

Thursday, June 23, 2022

poem

 My Son

When a young dad says my son

He means it mostly in the possessive

Self enhancing sense:

Fruit of my loins!

Continuation of my name!

            unbroken chain


Bombastic bellow of the man in full

Just before a predictable fall:

Behold my boy!


But the older dad whispers

It with a whiff of apologetic 

Ruefulness.  It’s not solely your fault,

my son, for all the errors of your life.

Why should shame and regret 

Alone be borne by you

Many of them belong to me 

And are mine to be borne too.  


6/23/22

poem

 Lost in Translation

I can’t sleep anymore

Tormented by the possibilities

Of what Bob whispered to Charlotte

At the end of Lost in Translation


There’s a theory he ad libbed the line

Told her he had to be leaving

But wouldn’t ever let that come between them


But that doesn’t resolve anything

It’s a platitude

He’s speaking all sideways 

Tangentially

Too much like poetry


When we ask what he says

What we really want to know

Is what he ends up doing.  


I know what he should have said:

I love you and cannot leave you

And need you always here

From now until the end of my light 


While he folds her into his embrace 

And the curtain drops

Or the movie ends  

And our life begins 


You can tell from the look on her face


6/23/22


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

poem

 Love is the Guide

Love is the guide that takes us 

Deep beneath uncharted seas

Past the white skeletons of coral

Past the sunken Clipper ships

With their holds of briny treasures

Beyond the penetrance of light

Where the only non darkness

Emits from the bioluminescence 

Of undulating alien creatures 


Stay right here, love instructs us,

I’ll bring oxygen and masks.

And we do.  We like it here

We like this sinking feeling 

Of a world pressed tightly against us

A pressure that could crush us.

Love always looks back once

On its way back to the surface 

And smiles at our trusting faces

As we exhale the last bubbled

Burst of air left in our lungs 


This is the point where doubt creeps in.

Was it love that brought us here?

Or a crinkled smile, or your eyes, or your lips?

Many falter here and simply drown 

While others discover

They were always fish 


6/21/22

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

poem

 Op Note XXV

After a while it starts to seem unreal. All this putting to sleep and prepping of flesh, this cutting and excising of tumors and organs. Some come in too late.  They die.  There’s labor and delivery down the hall.  Replacements on the way.  But then you wander one night on the upper wards, alone.  Dead, dead, dead, soon to die.  You feel like you're someone else.  No, not someone, something else.  A different form of being.  Not like this patient or that.  Not like the GSW in bay 2.  The rigid belly in slot 14.  They all have medical record numbers.  Look them up.  Digital code to an entire life.  But you get detached.  It’s only natural.  You just want to be good.  Empathetic but professionally distant. The wall begins here.  You don't even see it.  But then you get nightmares.  Cold sweats. Getting chased.  Losing your soul. Running in mud. A voice in your ear that sometimes sounds like a lover in the throes of passion. Sometimes like the wails of the deepest suffering. You never hear words. You can’t tell. One morning on rounds you finally get it. You’re not alone. But it comes at the cost of realizing deeply, for the first time, the inevitability of your own demise.  Just as all the others.  If you didn't, who the hell would you be?  Where did you come from? And who abandoned you? I can imagine Christ’s surprise.  Waking up after three days in the ground, staring in astonishment at the paleness of his soft palms. Father, who am I now?

6/15/22

poem

 Tired

There’s tired and then there’s tired

Dead tired

Dog tired

Tongue wagging 

Bags under my eyes

Beat as a whip

Out like a light 

Ready to drop

You lose your focus

Like half way drunk

Or just deeply depressed 

But no, it’s just tiredness

Fuzzy headed, brief

Lapses of consciousness

Overtired, my ex-wife 

Used to call it

Sure, whatever.

Miserable as fuck

I’m tired?

Asleep on my feet

Dreaming I was in another life

With urine all over the tables

I was laughing so hard

Tears on my cheeks

Exhausted

Taunted by nagging suspicion

I’d wake before sunrise

Unrested


6/15/22

poem

 Men in Shorts

I don't want to become

That old man in shorts

Pale legs like crustacean claws 

Black-dyed hair middle-parted

Combed back and blow dried

Bounding across the parking lot

With a self satisfied lope

That wilts the dandelions nearby 


You don't need to see my legs

When I’m old and senescent 

I'll be in pants, in comfortable shoes

Sitting over there on the bench

Crew cut gray, black glasses 

Pretending to read a book

About ecological catastrophes

Watching the the world go by

All the young men in suits

Strutting with leather attaches 

Whistling brash tunes

They’ll someday call Regret 


Whispering to myself

We’re all going to die

As a matter of fact

And I wasn’t that

Nor that 

Nor that


6/14/22