Try medicine, why don’t you! Lots to keep you busy, and lots to make you think. — William Carlos Williams to Robert Coles, as quoted in Coles’ The Mind's Fate.
“But what do they mean... his poems...
I mean?” The young man in the second
row fixed his dark eyes on me just as
I was about to move from “Nantucket,”
and “The Red Wheelbarrow” to Roethke
and Bishop. Unconvinced that a poem
might just be images felt and stored, he
kept at it. Students stabbed and chewed,
tossing thoughts. The young man’s
expression softened a bit. We moved on.
Yet here I am weeks later, watching March
wind sweep cherry blossoms like snow
across the yard, remembering the lavender
and yellow flowers, an immaculate white bed
and fresh curtains, thinking of a doctor's days
jammed with swabbing, prescribing, driving,
jotting, his exhaustion evaporating
as he entered that airy room, letting the open
window bathe him in things he would take in
and away—the key, tray, tumbler and glass,
before taking himself out into late afternoon light.
The rare moments between dying patients,
fragile newborns, when he slipped out
one Paterson door after another, seizing
images like a cane for balance on his way
from one house call to the next. A doctor
reminding himself as often as he did
others of essential things—a sparrow,
an iris, simplicity and generosity in
“our daily conduct,” snatching moments,
scratching notes between patients. Only now
watching drifting blossoms do I realize
that we did not linger long enough over
a young man’s question or the busy doctor
who would have found the time to answer it.
Listen to Davi Walders read "The Path:"
Look, then, behind,
at the dusty mark
of steps, your steps
and mine, heel
and sole still
between crags and
Evidence we walked
these cliffs, reached
this seam of sky
and sea where our
longings took us
high into the wind’s
eye above the path.
The beauty of it
like a difficult
lover, dark copse,
the summit heady
and hot, our
from the climb.
But see how far
we’ve come beyond
lava hills and
Look back where
How little we knew
of a misstep’s peril,
the forced choice
at each divide.
Remember the moments
of minimal light,
brush that cut.
The path, sometimes
all we had tethering
our small velocities
to schist, marl,
clay and quartz.
Look back, then,
to what the foot
has found, where
the heart has stumbled.
Davi Walders' poetry and prose have appeared in more than 200 anthologies and journals. She developed and directs the Vital Signs Writing Project at the National Insitutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which was funded for three years by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, a Maryland State artist grant in poetry, a Luce Foundation grant, and fellowships to the Ragdale Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work and has been read by Garrison Keillor on Writer’s Almanac, and nominated for Pushcart prizes.