Arts & Culture

“It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there,” wrote the iconic physician-poet William Carlos Williams.

In my native language Shona, a popular aphorism advises “seka urema wafa.” Roughly translated, it means “laugh at a cripple when you are dead.” In Shona, idioms like this are called tsumo.

No OFF-button on the frickin' remote;
the tv hangs like an eye
which you watch prophilactically,
in case it might fall.

As a young medical student,

I sat across from my patient in the old neuro ward.

A retired high school English teacher,

I knew she was once quite sharp.


I adore your gentle breathing, lying in my bed;

My plant has chosen you with drops of water on your head.

I adore you leaning over, blowing out the light;

Your lips will be my candle, burning through the night.

As is usual practice at the Multi-Service Center, a homeless shelter in the heart of San Francisco, I was sent out to recruit patients from the men’s floor.

My mother was never superstitious

until she lost faith in her body—

with each new opaque mass,

her doctors uncovered

another dark star.

She started aligning furniture

with compass rose gardens,

Let me die in winter

Let me die in solitude

past midnight

with a flask of spirits

a cigarette that won’t kill me

winking at the stars


Let me die with my back

Last night I was called
to the front lines
where life and death battle it out
and no one ever knows
who will stay, who will go
or what, in the end, it’s really all about

I lost you at hello

Scars knit
intended wounds
over time
under clothes
same as accidental