(for William Carlos Williams)
At a desk, with bent lamp, tea turned to ash, the doctor sits facing a window. His white coat mirroring the blur of snow. His last patient, a young mother with inflamed breasts. Cold cabbage leaves tucked in her bra prescribed to dry up her milk, wean her baby from her grip. As the doctor smokes, he thinks of the cabbage leaves wilting from the heat of a breast, a spoonful of soup cooling before the breath, the damp earth clinging to boots, what remaining winter root crop will survive the last freeze, the baby who will soon forget to cry at the smell of his mother’s body.
The doctor, who has long abandoned trusting his own intuition for survival, walks out among the snowpiles in his thin coat, a useless skin to protect him from his files of the body’s betrayals, his fingers numb, and he decides to write a poem instead.