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Poetry and Medicine
December 2, 1998

After Watching Twyla Tharp

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(21):1866P. doi:10.1001/jama.280.21.1866

The curled leaves are struggling into green, and from green
Into fullness. Trees that cast speckled shade
Soon will cast black shadows. At night I dream
The moment in my boat when I cast off the mooring pennant
and motor out through the green arms of the land
Onto the dazzling, free-form water, rising
With each tide as my wife's side rises with each breath
Beneath the covers at night. I think of the brain
Prickling with the tiny pin-point lights of the day
Like phosphorescent seaweed in the dark. It needs a flood
To carry it into sleep, the way the world needs sun
For two or three days for all the buds to open.
We wake, blink, and everything's green with spring,
The way the body, sick for a month, rises one morning
As comfortable with itself as if the flesh were cool silk.
If the movement feels good to do, then probably
It looks good to others. Wearing my flesh lightly
I kneel to press the kill switch on the motor
And the boat keeps bubbling forward inside the wind
As if it doesn't know any better, has forgotten its mass,
Its iron keel. Bubbling forward, at a slight heel,
Bow foaming. And where is the mind in all this?
Like a small passenger on board the body which follows
Its will, which is also the will of the wind.
From land you will see the white sails' progress
Against the curve of Great Island, slow
But inexorable, the way the tide darkens the sand,
Or the way clouds drift floating south.
The tip of the sail is like the pointer on a gauge,
Which says time is filling up with life till it's full,
The way the sail is full, and begins to move.
Somewhere. Be patient. Enjoy the feeling of this flesh.