Two Birthday Poems


You’re in Med School with that damn left hand
and it’s not the class on knot-tying and sutures
but the unruliness and independence
of the vision. The calling to be a physician,
that’s what you promised.
You didn’t mention the shaman dream

at the threshold. Standing in doorways.
You’ve chosen the grander, larger than life-size God
and now you have to live with love.
You’re one of the crossover people.
Mary Oliver surrounds you. Bring up Alan Storey.
Could we bring him here?

I had to go to South Africa to see if he was real.
Alan calls you out, and just like that you’re a doctor.
Open door, open womb. Hold out your hand to strangers,
Yours is the only hand I get to hold today.
Every hand will have a hand to hold.
Echoes of Alan. Step into silence,

your words now. Leaving the house
remember the physician.
You’re only going to have 12 minutes with each patient.
You’re surprised you have so much time.
We sat there and didn’t say a thing.
What is inside me is inside you.

Everything swings and I can love anyone in the room.
Your daughter picks up the phone
and calls Cape Town. Alan clicks on his computer
and walks into the library. Daughters all over the world
learn languages in sentences forever new.
The shaman’s work. Neither man nor woman.

The work that important.
What about those babies being born?
They’re waiting. Like God,
not coming to you, through you.
Above tree line, 50, like Alan says,
In love, by love, for love.

Happy Birthday, Karen

April 23, 2014


If you’re scoring this play,
these numbers, 6-3, it reads like a routine
infield out, shortstop to first base.
You’ve shown me, Chuck,

the sacred in routine, how it holds
and how it comes apart—and why
the game must be slowed sometimes,
to one pitch, one swing of a bat.

63. These two numbers
bounce between even and odd,
divisible always by the odd 3,
even into the sixth decade,

where pitching changes get made.
Karen and I bring pizza thinking
your girls play three games today.
I have the date wrong. It’s practice,

and you call your team to the fence
and talk to them about the two of us
throwing ground balls on the street.
Ground balls and passion. This

is a coaching moment for the coach,
my brother. It’s two days after Easter
and I’ve read every note your ball players
put into your Easter basket. If you’re scoring

this one, you have to have someone
like you for a brother, or be on your team
to know what it means to play for a coach
like you to see this moment isn’t about baseball.

Your brother in the stands,
Love, Jim
April 23, 2014

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