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This is a collection of 61 poems by physician-poet Richard Bronson. The first and largest section contains many poems related to the poet's medical life and experience, including several that arose from his formative and bittersweet years at New York's Bellevue Hospital ("A Bellevue Story," "I Shall Be Your Vasari," and "Pain"). Others re-imagine events in the history of medicine ("The Knowledge," "Plague Doctor," and "The Man Who Dissected His Wife's Brain")
The second section, "Ten Portents of the Future," contains poems that examine the symptoms and signs of contemporary malaise, but find the diagnosis uncertain and the prognosis . . . who knows? It appears grim, though: "I am a lame man / gone to seed / at the terminus of an age." ("After the Big Bang," p. 94) In his last suite of poems, "Six Aspects of Love," written to his wife, Bronson reveals his strong, but purely personal, antidote for the cruelty of our "barbarous times."
In "About Love," two friends who were caught in a storm while out walking have sought shelter in a third friend's country home. They stayed the night and at lunch the next day their host, Alehin, tells them a story about his lost love. It seems that when he was young, he worked closely with Luganovitch, the vice-president of the circuit court, and became close friends with Luganovitch and his beautiful wife Anna Alexyevna.
Over the years, Alehin and Anna spent a great deal of time together; he fell passionately in love with her and felt confident that she reciprocated his feelings. Yet, they never acted on their passion. At last, after many years, when Anna was setting out on the train to join her husband, who had been transferred to a distant province, Alehin took her into his arms and proclaimed his love. They collapsed in tears. But alas, the train left: "I kissed her for the last time, pressed her hand, and parted forever."
Nan Prince is an orphan who becomes the ward of the local general practitioner, Dr. Leslie, upon the death of her elderly aunt. Nan and Dr. Leslie develop a close emotional bond. She is a bright young woman who enjoys accompanying him during his long day's work as a country doctor in Oldfields. They often discuss medicine and healing. Dr. Leslie encourages Nan to read medical books, while instilling in her an understanding of the intimacies of his patients' lives and a love of caring for them. He would like to see her become a physician, an ambition she soon begins to pursue despite many obstacles. She goes away to medical school in the city.
After her first year at medical school, she spends part of the summer in the town of Dunport where she is introduced to her closest relative, Miss Prince (her father's sister), and the "smart" society she has never experienced in the country. Miss Prince and Nan's new friends are all amazed and scandalized by the thought of a woman becoming a physician. They think the whole idea is utterly outrageous, especially for a young, attractive woman like Nan.
She meets and falls in love with a young lawyer, George Gerry, who asks her to marry him. With great emotional pain (but no hesitation), Nan chooses medicine over marriage. She returns to medical school and, after graduation, to spend a year in Oldfields practicing with Dr. Leslie. In the end she stands by the river on a beautiful summer day, raises her hands to the sky, and exclaims, "O God . . . I thank thee for my future!"
Meridian is set in the American South during the 1960s and early '70s. The heroine, Meridian, is a black woman from a southern town. She marries, has a child, gets a divorce, sends her child away, and ends up working in a voters' registration campaign, encouraging African-Americans to register. Meridian is different from her co-workers in that she interacts with people as individuals, rather than by stereotyping them. For example, while others lecture black families about the importance of voting, Meridian sits and talks with them, trying to address their basic needs of food, heat, and affection.
As years pass, her co-workers quit and move into comfortable houses. She moves deeper south, living in whatever housing the community can afford to give in exchange for her constant work on their behalf. Frequently, after staging a rally or other event, Meridian develops partial paralysis. She grows more and more ill. A halo-like light surrounds her head as she thinks of the history of her people and of her role in that history. She ultimately heals herself and moves to the next small town.
The author came to Houston in 1962 as a visiting professor. While there, he and his wife decided to become volunteers at "J.D." (Jefferson Davis), the county hospital. They found that the hospital was overcrowded, understaffed, over-bureaucratized, and very poorly supported by the county. In particular, they found that the volunteer corps (Women-in-Yellow) was primarily involved in clerical work, rather than providing service to patients.
Marjorie de Hartog wished to form a group that would feed and nurture infants in the nursery, but the hospital authorities thought that was out of the question. This book is an account of how the de Hartogs, their Quaker community, and other Houston citizens developed a significant volunteer presence at "J.D." and, in the process, became aware of the frightful state of patient care. They became activists supporting the opening (and better funding) of a new public hospital.
Since her husband's death, Miss Helen has lived alone and transformed her home into a work of art by creating a myriad of cement wise men, camels, owls, mermaids, and other figures around the house; and decorating the inside with dozens of candles and mirrors. She has created her own "Mecca" of beauty and freedom amid the harsh church-going Afrikaners and voiceless Colored of this desolate region of South Africa. She has befriended a young teacher from Cape Town, Elsa, who sees the light of humanity in Helen, while others view her as an old woman who went crazy after her husband's death.
In response to Helen's letter of distress, Elsa drives from Cape Town to make a surprise visit on the same day the local pastor, Marius Byleveld, comes to Miss Helen's house to help with her application for a bed at the local Old Folks' Home. Marius is invested in Helen moving to the Home because he fears for her safety (she recently burned herself by accident). Beneath this concern, however, is his deeper fear of her "idolatry" and her self-imposed exile from the Church; yet deeper still, is his human love for Miss Helen. With Elsa's support, Helen takes a stand, deciding to remain alone in her Mecca, rather than going to the Home.
Summary:These poems stem from Coles's studies of the lives of poor black children in the South, and Native-American children in the Southwest and Alaska. In his Introduction to the first section of the book, Coles writes, "The words in this section tend to be soldiers." These tough, sad, hopeful, and militant poems give voice to children and adults on the firing-line during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. The poems in the second section, which arise from Coles's work among Native-Americans, are quieter in tone, more radiant, lyrical, and even transcendent.
During World War II two Jewish teenagers in New York meet under unfortunate circumstances. Reuven Malder is the pitcher and Danny Saunders the batter in a baseball game between two rival yeshivas. Danny, the son of the rebbe (or tzaddik) of a strict Hasidic sect, lines the ball straight to Reuven, hitting him in the eye. Later, Danny visits Reuven (the son of a Jewish scholar) in the hospital and they become close friends. The story takes us through the next five or six years of the boys’ lives, as the World War ends, the Holocaust is revealed, and the Jewish state in Palestine is born in dissension and violence.
Danny is destined by tradition to follow his father as tzaddik of his community, but he really desires to become a secular psychologist. Reuven is gifted in mathematics, but his desire is to become a rabbi. From his father Reuven learns about the historical roots and practices of Hasidism. At Reb Saunders’s synagogue, he experiences Hasidism in practice, especially the practice whereby the Reb makes an intentional mistake in his sermon every week and challenges Danny to identify the mistake and elucidate it from the Talmud and commentaries.
Reuven learns to hate Reb Saunders, who strangely never talks to his son, except when they are studying Talmud. Danny and Reuven both attend Hirsch College. At one point Reuven’s father, David Malter, openly supports the creation of Israel and Reb Saunders, who is violently anti-Zionist, forbids Danny to speak with or associate with Reuven.
Meanwhile, Danny has never spoken with his father about his plans to attend graduate school in psychology. Finally, the rebbe asks to see Reuven and for the first time in a year the three men meet in Reb Saunders study. The rebbe explains that he has known about Danny’s plans all along. He also explains why he raised his son in silence--it was to teach him to listen to silence, to learn compassion, to develop a soul to go with his magnificent mind.
This is a sequence of 45 poems on the Holocaust. Of course, "on" is impossible. These poems suggest, approach, reflect and consider. They range from the tale of the Maker of Walls in Krakow who chooses to make his new wall out of "jewstone," which is cheap and conveniently sized, since it consists of gravestones; to a paean in which the poet asks the blessing of "the god of small poets" to take pity on him: "May a self-righting gyroscope inhabit me and guide me. / May I smell the lilacs of my parents' yard."
The poems situate themselves in gnomic utterance ("Black Forest Cake" and "Women"), narrative movement ("Amsterdam" and "Grace Note"), ironic lyricism ("Idyll" and "Spring"), and reflective toughness; take "Nothing" for example: "He leaves us nothing / as a remnant of His people."
This is the story of Shed, a boy growing up in Idaho at the turn of the century. Shed, who believes he has a Native-American mother, is berdache, the Native-American third sex. Though physically male, he has feminine attributes and is bisexual. For the first half of the novel, Shed is trying to figure out who he is. He lives in a whore house run by Ida Richilieu, a bossy but deeply caring woman who acts as his mother. His own mother disappeared, hunting down a man who raped Shed. Shed later finds her body in the mountains.
One day he leaves Ida's place to visit his mother's people. On the way, he meets Dellwood Barker, a white man, who talks to the moon. Shed discovers a photograph of his mother in Dellwood's things and assumes that Dellwood is his father. Nevertheless, they fall in love and begin a sexual relationship. Dellwood believes in Moves Moves, the substance in sperm that gives life. The two separate so that Shed can go to the Indian reservation. He gets shot while there, but an old Indian man saves his life by breathing his soul into him.
Shed returns to Ida's where Ida, Shed, Dellwood (who stumbles back into Shed's life), and a whore named Alma Hatch, form a new family. Together they fight the racism and bigotry of the Mormons who take over the town. Ida and Alma get lost in a snow storm. Alma dies and Shed and Dellwood have to amputate Ida's legs which are badly frostbitten. They help her to heal by giving her the energy of their Moves Moves. By the end of the novel, Shed is content with his identity.