Fifteen years ago, I tell them,
I was invincible, nothing bothered me,
nothing held me back and even
the few surgeries were short
rest stops on a runner’s highway.
I knew it would last forever, I
knew I was kidding myself.
Now, aging, I am held together
by titanium and injections,
trying to fall apart with
as much grace as possible.
My little problems are now
and progressive, yet I live on
for there is no good alternative,
and hope that medicine finds
solutions before my problems
completely overtake me.
We were certain then that we’d be
a success in life, that we’d drive
the kind of cars our fathers
only dreamed of as our mothers
chuckled about mid-life crises.
They spoke about sons and daughters
of friends who were doctors,
or at least lawyers, bemoaned
those who taught or held jobs
they called manual labor.
But we were going in a whole different
direction, we would eschew medicine,
reject law, for we would be titans
of retail, and one day we would have
too many lemonade stands to count.
She could barely move her head
the cancer climbed her spine
reaching upward, clutching vertebrae
reaching out, tendrils grasping
tearing fragile organs.
She would cry, but that would be
an admission of defeat,
a welcome to death.
I cried out for her,
entreated our God
that she might stand by her sons
when they uttered the ancient words,
by her daughter, adjusting
the white lace veil,
but he would not answer,
drawn into catatonia, seeing
severed limbs of children
littering the streets of Sarajevo.
She clings tenuously to life
as I cling tenuously to faith.
First appeared in Community of Poets Magazine Vol. 21,, 1999 and later in
Legal Studies Forum 30:1-2, 2006
He is only four years old,
has decided he will be
“an X-ray doctor” in a few years
because he wants to see
broken fingers and legs, but
if he sees bad things
he can take them out
and throw them in the trash.
He is more perceptive
that even he can imagine
for without any medical training
it is clear he can see
right through any adult
he comes across, and he
does it was a gentle smile
that says: your secrets are
safe with me, probably, maybe.
Next week we will walk along the beach
and periodically stare out on the ocean.
The waves will wash in and out, and one
will look much like the last and the next.
If we get out early enough, perhaps we will
sit outside a café across the road from the beach
and drink our wet cappuccinos and eat our bagels
while watching some 20-something
perform yoga poses on the sand, poses that we
can remember, uncertain how our bodies
ever assumed those postures, certain
to do so again would cause breakage
that would put medicine to an unfair test.
We watch the elderly drivers, question
why they still have licenses to drive, and
to the extent possible, avoid looking in mirrors.