I apologize for the fizzling of this year's contest. Due to some unforeseen issues, a general lack of promotion, and decreased interest, the competition has been "suspended." If you would like your poem deleted from the comment field, please let me know.

I hope to have more time and ability to run a real contest again next year.

Thank you for your understanding.


Charles Prize for Poetry 2012 Competition Begins

I would like to announce the opening of this year's poetry contest.

The Charles Prize is awarded to the best poem written and submitted within the realms of science or medicine, as judged by a diverse and hand chosen panel of jurists.

Participating poets have included published authors, an elementary school science class, scientists, doctors, mathematicians, and writers suddenly finding themselves in the role of patient or humbled learner.

The main purpose of the contest is to provide a forum for the sharing and appreciation of poetry related to science and medicine. Due to a severe lack of free time, I will be making this year's contest very low maintenance. In order to submit a poem for consideration, please simply enter it into the comment field below, where it will be published after a brief review. Please include your preferred email address so that you can be contacted if your poem is judged a winner!

Prizes for 2012:

The Charles Prize is a metaphysical crown, abstract and immaterial in nature, and comes with a $100 honorarium.

Second Prize is no less respectable, and will be rewarded with a profound sense of accomplishment, and a $50 honorarium.

Honorable Mentions shall number three, and will be celebrated and remembered fondly for all eternity.

In keeping with the minimalistic approach to this year's contest, rules shall be simple as well. Disclose your identity only as much as you wish through the comment form. Submit up to 2 poems. Email me should you wish your poem be taken down at any time. Submit your poetry which has a theme related to science or medicine.

The contest ends at midnight 12/31/12. Winners will be announced in January, 2013.

Find inspiration, conjure magic with your written words, and shine light and life into the scientific shadows of your brain!


New Poetry Book

Jordan Grumet, physician blogger and poet, has published a new book.
It can be previewed and ordered here.



By Andrew Watson

I. Diagnosis

Words that bear a heavy burden;
In shambles, they did leave me.
Hands of hope, torch burning bright;
From anguish they did lead.

II. Treatment

As darkness knocks, the body fights;
All wars cannot be won.
To restore the body mind and soul;
Healing hands to make me one.

III. Death

The time has come, life wears thin;
from tired lips, a final gasp.
My hand in yours, our journey done;
Carried here, to comfort last.


Winners of the 2011 Charles Prize for Poetry

It is with great pleasure that I announce the winners of this year's poetry contest.

The judges (a physician, two engineers, a biochemist, a literature teacher, an English major, a microbiologist, a theater artist, and a computer specialist) selected these 6 poems from among the 150+ received.  I apologize for the delay this year as I had a convergence of major stressors in my life.  Yet the tomato is still ripe and ready to be awarded.

Winner - Madonna, by Nykki B.
Runner Up - Heartbeat, by Conrad Geller
Runner Up - Hot Start, by C.B.

Honorable Mentions:
Bloodwork, by Suzanne Edison
Ohm, by Erica Tesla
Lux Caelestis, by Pathematica

Judging poetry is among the most subjective of tasks, and there were numerous poems that received votes from the judges that have not been mentioned here.  I received many emails from writers and readers who were inspired, entertained, and moved by your words.

What makes for good poetry?  Perhaps it is holy necromancy of dead letters, brought to stirring life.  It is larger, more vivid, and more animate than a simple summation of its typewritten parts.  A good poem echoes from within.

The next Charles Prize for Poetry, 2012 edition, will now be accepting submissions on a rolling basis for outstanding poetry in science or medicine.  Simply email your poem to drcharles.examining *at* gmail.com to be entered, winners to be announced in October 2012.  I hope to keep this blog going as a chronicle of entries for all to enjoy.

Thank you for your interest, and thank you for sharing your poetry with others.

Here are this year's top vote getters, congratulations!

by Nykki B

You are O!
she comments, as I pass her by
So pretty pregnant today.
they say, with a smile.
You have a sparkle.
Perhaps some women are made
to blossom
for naked silhouette pictures
empire waists
Pastel print jumpers
Not I.
Gravid, I am -
half-moon heavy,
full and round.
There is weight in me,
continents of curve and drift
a topography of breast
Oceans within, wet
salt and dark
a tidal flux,
And deeply life,
its reptilian shift
moving against the primeval

by Conrad Geller

The monitored heartbeat
Rides miraculously, over and over,
Peak after peak, wavelets in a gale,
Musical score for an instrument never

My own heart, monitored for you like that,
Would show, I promise, nothing but faithfulness,
A little checked by age, much more by pain,
Still writhing in its old accustomed rhythm,
Its geometric pattern on the screen
A perfect metaphor for hopeless love.

by C.B.

When I find the center of your center I'll unwind you
And coil you around myself instead
And slide my fingers down your seams
And dreamily undo you
Make spaghetti of your arching primal spires
By candle flame, I'll dextrously denature all that tethers you
Until you quiver bodily
A harp string
And sing
Every note that's written in you.

by Suzanne Edison

The live-wire of my body,
vigilant tuning fork, vibrates low.
Watching you walk, run, heave
a mottled brown ball toward netted hoop—impossible
to dream—a braided vision
of normality—I am no longer a chicken
pecking circles round your every moment,
as if that dance kept me from being
unzipped, or you, from falling.

Yet, each time your labs return
a notch too high or, a milky fog appears
inside one eye and your knuckles flare, grated
red, I curse the resurrected
hope-wagon I thought to ride on.
Still full of flint, ready for conflagration,
I would strip bark with my teeth, slice
the neck of pestilence—a fenestration
for cords coiled from my hair and flayed skin—
plait a lasso, harness, bower, anything
to keep the sky clear
of your unfurling.

by Erica Tesla

It began with the accident:
three feet of lost flesh made way for
plastic, the living and the inorganic
and I systematically learned again to grasp.

When I get the other shoulder inked, I leave that arm
covered. The parlor-man, he thinks he can
suss me out: a hippie who mistook
ohm-as-in-resistance for om-as-in-shanti
until I tell him it means    ​decay,
our bodies all do.

I can change. I think:
the bees can see UV; why can’t we?
Busted evolutionary equipment, hardware in want of an upgrade.
In my fingertip, I inject
a sphere of rare earth, iron,
a bearing to get my bearings,
and now (when in the presence of electromagnetic fields) it
​ vibrates? buzzes? feels.
My lip is pierced, errant hair seared away,
uterus protected by a copper T,
contact lenses intimidating the view into focus.

Over dinner and mother’s objections, I will mention
​    grandad’s pacemaker,
​    a bottle of Centrum silver,
​    the incision decision dad made after too many children.
Protest discarded, I will be renewed,
made in the image of my choosing,
no longer accidental;
bionic, really.

Lux caelestis
by Pathematica

Lvx cælestis
qve in omnibvs incidit
sed pavcvm illvminat

Imagine dreams that James Clerk Maxwell dreamed
When piercing eyes looked up, by chance, to stare
Across the Scottish fields, where furrows streamed
About the gentle grandeur of Glenlair.
Imagine thoughts that Albert Einstein thought
When fortune beckoned through the window pane,
Revealing Speichergasse, newly wrought
In Maxwell’s light, emblazing Memory Lane.
The Friday afternoon meanders by
And daydreams fill the grindstone-wearied mind.
The sunbeams through the casement catch the eye
With sparks of inspiration for mankind.
For life presents this treasure to us all:
We see the light—and rise—or blink and fall.

The light of heaven
Which falls on everybody
But enlightens few

Author's note:
For the poem "Lux Caelestis" to make sense, it is necessary to know that (it is alleged that) James Clerk Maxell was inspired by the sight of the furrows in the ploughed fields around his family home at Glenlair, Scotland, to describe electromagnetic radiation by a "force field" using vector calculus to raise his famous equations. Albert Einstein acknowledged that he had been inspired by Maxwell and that relativity was implied by his equations. The patent office in Bern at which Einstein worked was located on the corner of two streets: Genfergasse ("Geneva Lane") and Speichergasse ("Memory Lane" - one of the lines in particular will not make immediate sense without this). Also, the German pronunciation is required for correct scansion.


Four Patients

by Callum J Hackett


Ten years of weary deterioration,
convincing others there's no need to be sad;
now, as doctors walk the corridors and talk
to everyone but you, all hope has been had,
and the pain is unbearable.


Eighteen months of slowly growing tumours,
each of them unleashing hormones in the blood;
but tests and scans and drugs and surgery
will let you live as long as anyone could,
though the pain is unbearable.


Twenty-six days have crawled by since the fall
when you fractured your arm for the third time;
even small movements make you writhe and squeal,
and you wonder why, in your untainted prime,
the pain should be so unbearable.


Forty-five minutes of this sore, blocked nose
makes you damn the human body's failings;
every inch seems defenceless, easily seized
at any moment, so you lie in bed wailing
that the pain is unbearable.

The Pill Cutter

by M.G.

The Pill Cutter

Chomping blue mechanical mouth,
the pac-man bares its shiny tooth -
a single silver blade.
It eats only pills
like I do.
Bip CLOP. bip CLOP.
Full moons to half moons.
Bip CLOP. bip CLOP.
I would pay the neighbor boy to do it
if his hands weren't so dirty.
Each week I am reminded
that my body will not live
without these.
Each week I face the mouth.
He is not smiling exactly,
yet has an eagerness.
He is plastic and metal
and will far outlast me.


This 30-pound head is yours
If you can lift it
From its pillow. It has sunk in deep.
Long asleep. Your lucky pearl. A trophy.
Take it take it. You are no bandit.
It is glad to be found and put to use.
No excuse that the brain misfires,
For the skull, smooth calcium phosphate rock,
Will last and last.
Roll it roll it. It will get your strike
Or spare if you like
To be coy. That boy is a winner
They’re sure to say. But we know
The burden so when you return
Lay it gently down.
Cover the cage fully around.
Safe in the dark and calm in the quiet
It beats an ancient steady beat.
An urgent beat, the pulse to live.
Suffering is an art like everything.
The cerebral heart
Will give and give.


by James Ph. Kotsybar


A scientist trusts in what has been proved
through repeated experimentation.
Assertions of faith will leave him unmoved
until they have achieved validation.
Religious beliefs often leave him cold
and skeptical of professed prophecies
based mostly on hearsay and tales twice-told,
not carefully tested hypotheses.
This doesn’t make him an atheist, though.
He’s more like an investigative sleuth
who seldom proclaims things he doesn’t know,
since he’s a stalwart apostle of truth.
He’ll all too gladly apply his method,
should God allow Himself to be tested.

FEARFUL SYMMETRY (from Songs Of Experiments)

Beyond notice, out of sight
in dimensions curled up tight,
shall only weakened gravity
suggest your supersymmetry?

Do you match, sine qua non,
boson to a fermion?
Will you ever edify
how the forces unify?

In what quanta, small or large
will we find your mass and charge?
In what membranes do you roam?
Which dimensions call you home?

In magnetic chambers narrow,
will you tell us of time’s arrow?
Have you broken, in the past?
How long do your components last?

Quarks from gluons will divide
when we make hadrons collide:
Will this show us where you hide
or leave us still unsatisfied?

Beyond notice, out of site
in dimensions curled up tight,
will only highest energy
reveal your supersymmetry?


The Tricky Business of Dressing a Wound

by Belinda Munoz

A wound need not be open,
bleeding or infected to require bandage.

Sometimes, head-to-toe couture is the dressing,
a luxurious lie that hides the shame of starvation,
scattering stardust to leave behind a blinding screen.
Fools anyone polite enough to shunt a probing stare.

Silly, sentimental songs with a sprinkling
of warm-blooded sin is the fleece
that unfreezes the frost from a shivering heart.
Prickling pain, now bearable,
still throbs just beneath the layers.
Undressing is a most critical step.
Not feeling skinned and raw when the
swathe comes off, a trick.
To be good as new, an unwarranted treat.

To let scars breathe and light bathe nakedness, a promise.

Bloodwork, and The Arousing

by Suzanne Edison


The live-wire of my body,
vigilant tuning fork, vibrates low.
Watching you walk, run, heave
a mottled brown ball toward netted hoop—impossible
to dream—a braided vision
of normality—I am no longer a chicken
pecking circles round your every moment,
as if that dance kept me from being
unzipped, or you, from falling.

Yet, each time your labs return
a notch too high or, a milky fog appears
inside one eye and your knuckles flare, grated
red, I curse the resurrected
hope-wagon I thought to ride on.
Still full of flint, ready for conflagration,
I would strip bark with my teeth, slice
the neck of pestilence—a fenestration
for cords coiled from my hair and flayed skin—
plait a lasso, harness, bower, anything
to keep the sky clear
of your unfurling.

The Arousing: Thunder, Keeping Still: Mountain,
Preponderance of the Small

I had forgotten the rope around my ankles
the unseen anchor, noose, we wove

until you called, mother, to confirm
aggressive progressive no cure.

When you asked for my help to die
my ankles burned. I reached for a knife.

I saw white tablets engraved with faulty instructions,

pills rolled in brittled fingers, their beauty halting,
residue: four children the garden gone

to thickets—a lamp blinking red-green-indigo blue.

Weeks straddling fallen
strands of hair, knots of chit chat

mixed with silence—if not me
who would dish out crush up hand over—

who hold the pillow over your face

your eyes, those bindweed seeds of love

originally published in The Healing Art of Writing; UCSF Press, Vol. I; 2011


by Carol Thomas

She washes up and they perceive at once
that she cannot survive the arid air.
So they rig up a set of tubes that shunts
salt water past her gills and find a chair
for her to ride in. She is dressed in white
and afghans wrapped around her tail. They try
to teach her to speak English, read and write
but she ignores them. She prefers to lie
beside the fish pond in the park, her eyes
upon the carp in silent pools of green.
A government department sets up teams
who write her monthly checks, with which she buys
no groceries. Her scales have lost their sheen.
She stares at fish and dreams inhuman dreams.

Tale of the fire rock

by Helena

Goodness it’s hot
said the igneous rock
I do wish there were something to do!
we sit in the heat
7000 degrees
there’s an entire world out there to view!

Then escape from our lava
said his magma pa
but beware of what you seek
The upper world I will let you ascend
you’ll find it to be quite different
I think you’ll be back within a week

Pow! Boom! and thunder shook the ground
red lava flowed down the slope
but our igneous friend shimmied to the mound
eager to meet his new crystallized isotopes

Hi! said the rock to the atoms widespread
What new things can we finally do?
Let’s play the half-life game, uranium said
I’ll hide my atoms, tallying is for you

I also want to play, yelled 14 carbon
but I don’t want to count too far
too bad, said U, we’re going for the long run
then they all brawled in the tar

My fun is denied
igneous sighed
how he missed the shifting metal
how much more exciting
molten rock that was bubbling
the magnetic currents that would never settle

The earth below crumbled
the rock screamed and rumbled
a violent upheaval snapped our rock below
who made it all stop?
it was his ol’ pop
the one he had left only an eon ago

Grandma Where's Your Hair, and The Christmas Angel

by Sarah Woods

Grandma, where’s your hair?
Sun was beaming through the window,
Lighting up her lifeless face
She’s hanging on by her love for us,
But, yet, it’s not enough.
We count how many times she breathes;
Her chest going up and down slowly
Her hair was cut off and now lies in a Ziploc bag.
While a lavender turban covers her head.
Knuckles are all bent,
Lips are all chapped,
Mouth is wide open,
And she’s gasping for air.
That grandmother smell of cookies has faded.
Now, medicine and cancer hang on her clothes.
That sickly sweet smell sickens me
And the IV keeps on dripping.
Memories and stories are being shared,
Tales of old and yellowing pictures that lie under the bed.
I haven’t heard her voice in so long,
Remembering Sundays when she sang at the top of her lungs.
That paper thin gown hangs from her fragile body,
But I can only remember her in that floral print sundress.
A nurse comes in, carrying more pills
In that tiny plastic cup,
But Grandma can’t swallow them, her tongue is too swollen.
Grief hangs thick in the air
Waiting and waiting.
Grandpa clears his throat to talk, choking on the words.
Tears come
We are all told to tell her that she can now let go.
I can’t manage to speak,
My heart breaks
And I ask cancer, “Why?”
Why would you take my Grandma away from me?
I walk out of that room
With crisp linen sheets
And children watching the hospital T.V.
Long white hallways seem to carry on,
Fearing that if I walk down them, she’ll be gone
That day rewinds back in my head,
To the words the doctor said;
“Christine, you have cancer,
There’s a few things we can do,
And, hopefully, you’ll pull through.”
2 years were spent in waiting rooms
For this radiation to come through.
Chemicals tore her body apart,
And for me, I had to watch.
I went back to when we would bake for Christmas,
But those scents don’t follow me anymore,
The flavors have left my tongue.
And I remember the tears in her eyes when I said,
“Grandma, where’s your hair?”

The Christmas Angel

Her hands would trace every ornament carefully
Placing them gently on the Fir we bought three days ago.
Frail; its how those busy hands have become.
A sunken face smiles,
Gray eyes have lost their twinkle,
Her curly hair is gone,
She’s lost her spirit.
That Christmas Eve kiss now has the scent of cancer lingering on it,
Marking my cheek with pain,
Laughing in my face when the tears swell up
I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore,
Or even Frosty the Snowman,
But I still believe in Christmas magic.
And yet, these tears are still coming.
We wake up and rush to the tree,
Grandma is sitting there.
A lavender turban is wrapped around her head,
Her hands are clasped together.
Don’t squeeze too hard, Grandma, you might break…
That wheelchair turns around,
Swollen legs and boney hands,
Sunken eyes and tissue paper skin.
My Christmas Angel still learns to smile.
We open our presents carefully,
Grandma opens hers.
A new red robe, to keep her warm
And old lace bundles that are patterned like snow.
The windows are frosted, a snowman in the back,
Even he’s lost the smile that he once had.
Cinnamon and sugar lie in the air,
Now the scent of cancer even lies there.
But, for just a moment, it disappears
As grandma’s voice is heard loud and clear
She sings those Christmas songs gracefully.
She smiles and then looks at me.
Those notes get trapped into the dust,
The words linger on the wall.
I look at our piano, its old yellow keys,
I remember when Grandma used to play her songs for me.
Cancer has now turned her eyes bad,
Taking away all energy she once had.
Today, she isn’t here, but gone far away.
But I still remember that Christmas,
Where I didn’t believe in Santa or even Frosty the Snowman,
But in my Grandma I did believe
When I watched her trace over those ornaments carefully.


by Robert B. Hinton

The epidural didn’t work,
you felt the incision
Pain compounded exhaustion, mouth parted
quivering with disbelief

They continued to work,
rapidly, but not hurried
Your upper body tugged unnaturally,
womb exposed, adjusting to the light

The floors didn’t hide the blood,
the rationale for a white room fleeting
Around a glimpse of a quiet clock,
camouflaged upon a stark wall

You held your breath,
underwater without goggles
Traveling elsewhere now,
closer to your private companion

Large green linens,
durable and romantic
Ceremoniously draped your body,
covering our clasped hands

As the moment came,
our flesh growing for forty weeks
Slowness seized my throat,
the stillness almost calm

Faces crowded the ceiling,
departed family members
And angels with forgotten names,
from paintings studied long ago

They pulled him out, our boy,
from the cathedral space in your belly
No time to eulogize the placenta,
a warm blanket to be remembered

We resigned to our new self,
understanding without reason
The first of four, life’s own longing,
to reconcile our collective memory

The doctor held him up, deliberately
he seemed to regard the ceiling
As if to acknowledge the witnesses, at last
the same Irish scream of millennia



by Gwen Carlson

When a parent cell divides
into two daughters
it does not divide equally.

One daughter is smaller, deficient,
for she has been programmed to die.

before division
is even complete
a catastrophic chemical cascade
has already commenced.

While her sister thrives,
proteases activate
and cleave DNA
into pieces.

Finally the remains are
efficiently phagocytosed
and eliminated.

This is essential
so every cell
has enough to eat
and ample room.

And this is the natural way of things.

AIDS Snow Family, and Gender Continuum

by CA Conrad


--for anyone who loved someone who died of AIDS

In January gather snow, this is intimate this calling to honor the shock of being alive. I made one tiny snowman named CAConrad, and one tiny snowman named Tommy Schneider. For six months they held hands in the privacy of my freezer while I visited the streets and buildings in the Philadelphia of our Love. Snow crystals travel miles out of clouds into the light of our city. My snowman read to his snowman the letters I brought home to the freezer. It's 2010, AIDS is different in this century you didn't live to see. The used bookshop where you worked on South Street is now a clothing store. Our first kiss in the Poetry Section is a rack of blue jeans and I resist hooking my thumbs in the belt loops to pull you in -- I FEEL you everywhere today.

In March an old friend was visiting and she said, "But you wrote poems for Tommy after he died." I said, "But it's sublime retracing our love in this exercise." She shook her head, "No, it's sad, it's very sad. Can't you see this beautiful day?" OF COURSE I see the beautiful day, in fact I SEE IT MORE THAN EVER, and I don't need her choreography to enter it. The point of experiencing love is to engage the greater openings. It's important to ignore the directives of others when investigating the way these doors swing on their hinges. Months of spring into summer, my snowman told your snowman the memories. One night you had asked if I was upset at something. I said, "I have no right to complain, all the men are dying in our city and I don't have AIDS!" You said, "Well I have no right to complain because I have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me and I DO have AIDS!"

Macrobiotics, herbal infusions, massages, sensory deprivation tanks, reflexology, music by Soft Cell, music by Siouxsie and the Banshees, music by Cocteau Twins, music by Patti Smith. Of course we're all dying, you'll never kiss someone who isn't dying, I know that, which is why the fear of this is not allowed to stop me from missing you the way I want. The streets were filled with men in wheelchairs that year. We were kids in love while you vanished in the funnel with them. The day after Summer Solstice I took our snowmen out of the freezer. 90 degrees, we melted quicker than expected, even sooner than I could have imagined. I burned the letters, mixed their ash with our slush. And I read to the puddle a poem that came to me years ago in a dream soon after you died: he wrote "I have AIDS / and kissed this wall" / X marked the spot / I wrote "I'm not afraid" / and kissed him back / wherever he is. I took many notes during the life of our snowmen in the freezer until they vanished. Those notes became a poem.

Gender Continuum

--for Anne Waldman

Every morning for seven days I gave my friend Elizabeth Kirwin treatments of reflexology and massage, and she in turn gave me craniosacral treatments. Each morning while on the table I would fix my mind to meditate on seven possible genders for my body, intersex intersecting day to day. Starting with the female skeleton, hormones, glands, and genitalia.

Day seven was male, but days two through six were variations of our world. The aim of physical, political, and sociological outcomes were in constant flux days two through six. Margins were permitted to drop in meditation. Permission to drop margins is an exceptional space to offer yourself and others. The craniosacral therapy was straightening my spine, relaxing my muscles, and challenging my thoughts throughout the gender exploration. The craniosacral lifted my consciousness while in deliberate concentration on the sex of my body.

Each morning after our healing exchange I would take notes about my body, how it was shifting, mending, and of course on the meditation of gender. The notes took no specific course other than a personal demand to divulge all hidden words and needs breaking free through the experience. I am a woman today. I am a man tomorrow. I will be neither for days to come, or bits and parts of both. Blood and imagination flow were on the increase. And that increase is a prodigious flow tempering the spirit, today, tomorrow, again, again against a wall. Up the wall. Over the wall. Away from the wall. The world as it could be (or a collective version of it) is always trying to bend the air around itself to be heard. The risks of the day are holding themselves out to us, yet we all know too well that the power structure is far ahead of us, the ambush of the ages. My notes from this exercise were plucked and shaped into a poem.

Battling the Enemy

by Sharon Wood

You secretly invaded my territory
Your presence I could no longer ignore
You have been given a name with the power to destroy me
I try not to think of you
Badgering my mind
Shooting doubt and fear into my soul
The messages you send remind me you want to take control
But I am a fighter
I will keep you at bay with my own weapons
Knowledge-to accept the truth of what this battle is about
Strategies of building my strength
My fortress built by love and support from family and friends
Laughter-a healing balm to the wounds you inflicted
You took pleasure in my stumbling today
Self worth crushed, I retreated from the world
A rival like no other I have fought
I hurl angry insults-you don’t respond
The days you have the upper hand I beg for mercy but there is none
I battle you hours on end to exhaustion, laying down at night to replenish
An unfair advantage over me, never needing to rest
Surprise attacks await me at sun rise
I sometimes feel like a lonely soldier I so camp out with other comrades, sharing stories of combat
Am I going to be victorious?
Oh, Hell Yesss!!



by Mary Anne Cohen

A line of children come from school
Girls in plaid dresses, braids,
Boys in white shirts, fifties haircuts,
some were crying, all afraid
Doctors in stark white, with needles like cannons
aimed at our small arms.

“Polio Pioneers”, the first brave shots, a bit of pain,
But we would not have withered legs like Uncle Stanley,
a wheelchair like the lady down the street.
We would not have canes, leg braces, or dreaded
Iron Lung half-life seen
In March of Dimes displays
Our mothers could stop fearing summer,
send us to the pool again
Another dread disease stopped dead
by modern science

Now New Age nutters rail against vaccines
wear their ignorance like tie-dye shirts
years out of style, “All Natural, man!”
“No chemicals, Organic”

As natural as the rows of little graves
in any ancient graveyard, young lives cut short,
tombstones leaning
with an awful grief, five children in one family
dead in one black week
Of sickness we can now prevent
with a small shot
Death is natural, organic, impartial
Dust to dust.

We have won an awful war.
A pox , a literal pox,
on those whose warped beliefs
kill babies, whose ignorance and arrogance
throws victory away

They all should go to those small graves,
read the mothers’ grief, fathers’ helpless pain.
See the blood on their own hands
hang their heads in shame

The Last Thing You Want to Break

by Wesley Dodson

Even though I could feel my arms and legs,
the spinal cord, when injured, goes into shock,
and I could not sheperd my feet
to stand in the shallow water.

My lungs, full of air, reassured me
as I floated, squirming until
I could twist my lips out of the river
to ask for a single syllable.

Luckily there were ears to hear.
And as I looked up at the circle of sunburned faces,
the Osprey flew directly overhead
to see what the heck was going on.

The X-ray showed a burst fracture of C5
and a bruised spinal cord. I wiggled my toes.
The doctors offered me seven pieces of titanium
or three months in a halo. I made my choice, wondering
if I would ever dive again.


by Laura K. Patterson

Into my palm a call light to grip.
They suggest my only investment
sixty minutes,
blanket my body,
plug my ears,
cage my face,
walk away.

I glide, rigid on my back
into a capsule, ivory, titanic.
Steady low hum
elicits domination,
unanswered questions,
unwanted answers.

Again, silence.
Two strips of light
nourish my vision
nothing else
I have to close my eyes.
Distant tapping,
teases hesitancy,
commands crescendo

tap, Tap, TAP
thump, Thump, THUMP
knock, Knock, KNOCK
pulsating metronomes
overlapping urgencies
digital machine gun

assault of sound
kaleidoscope of mind
nothing else, am I dying?
think of something else
I can't swallow. what else?
Machine Gun.

Finally, silence.
"Are you doing OK?"
If they could look into my eyes
they'd know the answer
I don't
the magnets do.

The magnets do.

Hypothetico-Deductive Method, and Vegetarian

by A.E. Marie

Hypothetico-Deductive Method

My little sister and I
sat in the sun grazing
tiny fingers plucked the blades
of tough grass
It tasted like lettuce but slightly creamy
clovers were tart
making me salivate
Rolling in our chlorophyll snack under the
plum tree
halo of Crayola-green bugs
I’d convinced her to eat the yard with me
so we’d make milk
Ignorance the only flaw
I observed: that the milk in the fridge comes from cows
     and that cows eat grass
I hypothesized: then that grass makes cows make milk
I predicted: that if I eat grass I will, like a cow, make milk
I will experimentally test this hypothesis: by consuming
     copious amounts of grass
     and await my milk production.


Snapping crisply on our herbivore teeth
greenery release chemical scream
ooze from broken

A meal sprinkled with
herb blossoms-
miniscule dill.
Labial petals
phallic stamen
crushed between molar plates,
stimulate olfactory pleasure.
Our incisors puncture fruit bodies,
ovaries on our lips
sweetness stains our tongues
running down our hands.
And we spit her zygotes
into garbage bins, devoid of biology
infertile beds
denying the benefit of
trophic interactions.

The Wave, and Schrodinger's Dolphin

by Martin Richard

Schrodinger's Dolphin

Some say the dolphin does not exist

Until we see him

That when he wheels between the mountains

And the image of the moon

It is our minds which do the leaping

Not the dolphin.

Others scoff.

Did the dolphin not exist

Before the Greeks encircled their amphorae

With the image of his dance?

The dolphin does not need

And never needed us

To swim and prance and play.

But yes, but yes, they answer!

It is we who have the dolphin conjured

From our love and admiration!

Not so! Not so! Some others say!

The dolphin merely travels as a wave

Beneath them!

Contracting to particulars

When it pleases him to please us

And be seen!

They argue.

The dolphin smiles

He knows he swims all possible paths

A happy few of which we see

But yet he fills completely

The width and breadth and depth the Gulf

Of our Unknowing.

A Note From the Teacher's Desk

by Liz S.

Dear Parent of Kid, I've chosen your fate-
I think you'd better medicate,
Your child won't listen and can't sit still,
Which is why I think he needs a pill.
He won't do his dittos, he thinks school is a bore,
He wanders around the classroom, then saunters out the door,
So I think a pill is what he needs -
Just ask his doctor, I'll bet he agrees!
Other interventions? Our school budget went down,
So we can't keep a behavior specialist around,
There are too many students to put seatwork away
(Our classroom would be chaos if we had no-dittos day!)
And besides, the drug companies have medicine to sell,
So I think your child needs pills, then I think he will do well.
Sincerely, a teacher with your child's needs at heart,
So go and get some meds for him, it's time to do your part!

Second Chances

by Angela Moore

Growing up. It's hard enough isn't it?
Try being her.
A girl who seeks normalcy on a daily basis.
A girl whose pale face and frail body wanted so much, just to make it to the next day.
Each day faced a new challenge; a new doctor, a new hospital, a new medicine.
These seemingly abnormal occurences soon became a part of her daily routine.
Or shall I say, our daily routine.

My sister, still a child, was plagued with struggles each and every day.
Attempting to overcome what should be fairly simple.
Each breath, strained and raspy, was a haunting reminder.
A reminder of what she would be faced to accept for the rest of her life.
Cystic Fibrosis.

A disease that made life's greatest simplicities, a luxury.
A disease that made it impossible to 'Go for the Gold' and face life head on.
Or so we thought.
Little did my parents know, that raised a fighter.
A strong, independent and brave, fighter.

Each day we prayed for some kind of cure, aid or alleviation.
A break from this 'thing' that tried to consume her life.
And with no cure in our line of sight, we were limited.
With nowhere to turn, we thought there were no options left.
We thought this was it.

It wasn't.
Giving up would not be that easy.

I awoke, startled, on the morning of September 11th, 2004.
The day that was typically spent commemorating the lost,
Would now be spent in a hospital.
In room 13.
That day, someone gave my sister the greatest gift of all.
New lungs. New life. A second chance.

Instead of watching this disease drain the life from my sister,
I watched it become less controlling; slowly losing its grip.
It no longer had a grasp on her like it used to.
It was just, there.

There may be no medicine to cure what she has.
And there may be no way to rid it from her body completely.
But she will always have what some people don't.
Another breath.


by Patrick McCauley

Let there be light
so that I might be bathed
in electromagnetic waves
like holy water
to receive these thy gifts,
thy collapsed carcass
of the star that fused
the carbon in my cells.

Rejoice in your place
in the cosmos,
for you are the cosmos
at its most complex,
adrift in an ocean vast
past comprehension.

Strike out to sea humanity,
and we can ride the tide
of entropy past the planetary
nebula of the dying sun.

Go forth and find the horizon,
be it big freeze or multiverse,
it does not end here.