Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Always, Autumn Leaves

 John A. Vanek
St. Petersburg, Florida, United States


Poet’s statement: Poetry provides a vehicle that takes me to places that logic won’t go, a way of understanding the incomprehensible, both in life and in medicine. I now prescribe poetry PRN (“as needed”), but warn that it may hurt a little. My poems are peopled with my family, friends, and patients.

Always, autumn leaves
a villanelle

It is strange how life clings to the last:
The red one is stoic, knows the way of the seasons,

Photography by Jean-Pol Grandmont
Photography by Jean-Pol Grandmont

yet looks warily down at green grass.

The brown one is wrinkled and lives in the past,
considers deserting the family as treason.
It is strange how life clings to the last.

The yellow remembers all those who have passed,
views the end as mere fate, not logic or reason,
so lies willingly down in the grass.

The dark one flies like a flag on a mast,
more purple than black, in sunset’s last crimson—
it is strange how some cling to the last.

From my hospital window, fall’s colors bleed fast,
for this tubing’s my stem, both lifeline and prison,
as I wait for parole to green grass.

This evening, I’m fragile and pale as veined glass,
yet reach out for my lover, our daughter, her son.
It is strange how I cling to the last,
yet look longingly down at green grass.


JOHN A. VANEK, MD is a physician and poet with works published in numerous literary journals and university press anthologies, such as Red, white and blues: Poets on the promise of America, as well as such diverse publications as the Journal of the American Medical Association and Biker Ally—The Motorcycle Magazine Geared For Women. He has read his poetry at the George Bush Presidential Library, the Akron Art Museum, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, and Eckerd College. His first full-length book of poetry, entitled Heart murmurs: Poems, was published in 2009. He has now retired from his private practice in Diagnostic Radiology.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2011 – Volume 3, Issue 2

Spring 2011   |  Sections  |  Poetry

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