'Watching the world swim fast and shining, right before his eyes'

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Richard M Berlin is a doctor and poet, or a poet and doctor, and in this poem from his book Practice, from Brick Road Poetry Press, he honours the wisdom each of us gains through experience.



A Lobsterman Looks at the Sea


His new hip healed in, we're working

on a bluff, talking doctors and health care

reform as we shove a new propane tank into place.

A shape on the surface catches his eye:

"Right whale," he says, but I can only see

endless swells rolling in from the east.

He points out the gradations of gray

and green that mark deep ledge, the tide's

shape along the islands and rocks,

the whale's glistening back suddenly in focus.

I react with the same surprise

my patients feel when I observe

what they can't see —

a sudden shift in gaze, or a crease in a cheek,

understanding how a doctor becomes

like a man who has spent sixty years

on a lobster boat, watching the world

swim fast and shining, right before his eyes.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2015 by Richard M Berlin, 'A Lobsterman Looks at the Sea,' from Practice, (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Richard M Berlin and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2015 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.

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steve pottinger

Thu 7th Apr 2016 17:22

That's another great choice of poem, Ted. Thank you.

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