"Spell Check for a Malformed Fetus" (p. 1) sets the stage for some of the important themes in this collection by poet-psychiatrist, Ronald Pies. First, the lack of honest language to express life’s "mistakes" and disappointments. Our attempt to disguise the pain by using easy, but inaccurate, words. And finally, an expression of hope, even if only in the world of imagination: "if only / in your first fission / some godly processor / had blessed / your blighted genes."

Some of these poems emerge from relationships with patients, notably "Consultation Request" (p. 35), "Three Patients" (pp. 37-39), "Prolapse of the Uterus" (p.76), and "Congestive Heart Failure" (p. 85). "Smoke, Lilac, Lemon" (p. 45) evokes a fascinating test apparently used by some clinicians to distinguish depression from Alzheimer’s disease on the basis of olfactory function. The four "Alzheimer Sonnets" (pp. 87-88) tackle the difficult task of expressing the experience of dementia from the patient’s point of view.

Many of the other poems deal with love, memory, loss, and pain in the context of family and intimate relationships. Among the best of these are: the title poem (p.3), "Sitting Shivah" (pp. 14-15), "Riding Down Dark" (p. 16), "Visitant" (pp. 41-43), and "Migrations" (pp. 64-69).


Ronald Pies’ steady and sensitive eye and compassionate heart radiate through the poems of Creeping Thyme. Using his characteristic spare line, Dr. Pies tells us, "Another Spring / has made us younger / and older." ("To Dr. Paul Mendelssohn." p. 26) Indeed, reading Creeping Thyme has the same effect. It makes the reader younger because of this poetry’s freshness and energy. It makes the reader older because of the experience and pain the work expresses.

Pies’ voice is well defined--short, rhythmic line, related in a way to William Carlos Williams’ attempt to capture the music of speech; economy of image; and occasional ornament, such as the unexpected rhyme. Ronald Pies’ work well reflects the tension between tenderness and steadiness that lies at the heart of medical practice, and perhaps at the heart of good poetry as well.


Brandylane Publishers

Place Published

Richmond, Va.



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