(Silent) Poetry Reading

To the Surgeon Kevin Lin
by W. S. Merwin

Besides these words that are made of
breath and memory with features
of both and are only mine as
                I address them to you

what do I owe to that steady
fire I watched burning behind your
glasses through the dire spelling-out
                when we met that first day

and to the passion of the boy
from Taiwan and the sharp knowledge
it burned a way to until it
                stood before the open

red cavern and between pulses
was sure how to do what came next
had it not been for that would I
                have been here this morning

at home after a night’s rain as
the first sunlight touches the drops
at the tips of the leaves I owe
                you the sight of morning

from Present Company (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)

I chose this poem for Dr. Michael Pearl, the wonderful gynecologic oncologist who continues to travel the road with me, his patient patient.