Baltimore, Maryland, United States
|Self-portrait with fiddling Death. Arnold Böcklin. 1872. Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin|
Some subjects are given to the authors
of poems and songs, of mechanical puzzles
and lives, given over and over
like a spiking fever in an old TB ward
or the low level irritation of a cancer
raising its hand in a bone — here I am
it says, conversant with any private language we speak,
the length of our stride, or how long an echo lasts
in the salt water taffy of our heads.
If we accept the gift we are bound to repeat it
by first taking, then giving it in turn to others
like a viral disease. Entranced as we write or read
we are bound to forget — it asks for nothing else:
the oldness of something new and our unpaid debt.
MICHAEL SALCMAN, MD, FACS, poet, neurosurgeon, and art critic, was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. His poems appear in Arts & Letters, Carolina Review, Harvard Review, Hopkins Review, Hudson Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, and Poet Lore. Editor of Poetry in Medicine, a popular anthology of poems on doctors, patients, illness, and healing (Persea, 2015), his collections include The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises, 2007), The Enemy of Good Is Better, and A Prague Spring, Before & After (2016), winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press.