Three Crows

Sunday was cold,
Still in the air a chill
From last week’s snow,
But enough sun to melt
The deep white patches down.

I stood in the back yard
Studying the leaf-strewn beds
By the high wooden fence.
There in the slanted sunlight
Clusters of snowdrops
Had reappeared,
Hearty white pearls
Suspended on green stalks,
Bright against the receding snow.

A squirrel descended,
Dancing down the fence cap
In leaps and bounds,
His mouth stuffed with
Late autumn leaves.
I watched him disappear
Into the neighbor’s tree,
Then up the side of his house
Into the eaves.

Suddenly the silence ended,
Broken by three crows
Alighting high up
On wispy budding branches
Of the tall silver maple
Beyond the weathered fence.

There they perched and squawked,
Black against the blue sky:
Winter intruders,
Unwilling to acknowledge
The sure coming of spring.

"Snowdrops" by Brian T. Maure

“Snowdrops” by Brian T. Maurer

Text and photo copyright 2013 by Brian T. Maurer

Infinite wonder

The boy, who is just 11 years old, sits on the exam table in his briefs. According to my afternoon schedule, he is here for his annual physical exam.

“Did you drive here yourself?” I ask him with the hint of a smile.

“Naw, my dad’s in the waiting room. He thought I could do this on my own.”

“And what do you think?”

He shrugs his shoulders. “Fine with me,” he says.

I leaf through his chart. “What grade are you in this year?” I ask him.

“Fifth,” he says.

“And how is school going?”

He thinks a moment and then says, “Good. I’m having a good year. I like my classes, especially science.”

“Good for you!” I offer a word of encouragement. “What do you like to do for fun when you’re not in school?”

“Well, I like to read and draw and ride my bike. Sometimes I like to go outside and look up at the stars.”

Suddenly, I’m intrigued. “What interests you about the stars?”

“We’re studying space in science. They’re teaching us about the solar system and the planets. But mostly I just like to look at the stars. Some are brighter than others. There’s this one star — at least I think it’s a star — that I can see outside my window when I’m lying in bed. I always look for that one.”

“Ah,” I say, “do you know how to tell the difference between a star and a planet? No? Well, a star emits its own light, like the sun, so it twinkles in the night sky. A planet, on the other hand, reflects light, like the moon, so it doesn’t twinkle. Planets have a steady light, even though they might look brighter than a star.”

“Wow, that’s cool! I’m going to check that out tonight.”

“You do that,” I say. “And now I guess we should do your physical exam and check you out.”

The exam is normal. He is a healthy boy, still full of wonder. As I fill out his exam form, I smile to myself, pleased that such a boy has yet to discover the Hubble photographs of deep space, Whitman’s When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer or even descriptively rich lines from Joyce’s Ulysses such as “the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

When I was a boy, I remember warm summer evenings, when my friend and I would capture fireflies at twilight and put them in a Mason jar. We’d lie in the grass and watch, fascinated, as the myriad soft lights would blink on and off. Then we’d roll over on our backs and look up at the sky overhead. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you might spot the flash of a falling star. Shooting stars, my mother called them. If you saw one, you could make a wish and your wish would come true.

At his age this boy still possesses that infinite sense of wonder which will hold him in good stead as he sets out on his journey to Ithaka. Who knows what ports of call he will visit, what adventures might lie in store for him ahead?

At his age, I reflect, the possibilities are limitless.

At mine, less so.

Savoring success, despite poor taste

The toenail continued to grow out slowly, the fissure gradually began to heal. Eighteen months later the split is all but gone; only a remnant remains near the leading edge of the nail. As an added bonus, the course of therapy cleared up a chronic case of tinea pedis as well. I was pleased — but this is not the end of the story; for in medicine, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, clinical tales never end; they merely morph into other, more puzzling dissertations.

Readers can access the rest of this clinical tale — In Poor Taste — in the Online Journal of Community and Person-Centered Dermatology, a free, post-publication peer-reviewed, full text, open-access, online publication that addresses all aspects of skin disease that concern patients, their families, and practitioners.

Getting to the bottom of it

Next month this boy will celebrate his 18th birthday and segue into young adulthood. Despite that fact, he’s here with his father today, mostly for moral support, I suspect. Even though I’ve known him since he was a newborn infant, at his age he’s a bit uncomfortable discussing his medical problem: a pain in the bottom.

Read the remainder of this adventure in the skin trade, A Pain in the Bottom, in the Online Journal of Community and Person-Centered Dermatology, a free, post-publication peer-reviewed, full text, open-access, online publication that addresses all aspects of skin disease that concern patients, their families, and practitioners.

The new norm

I’ve known this mother for a long time. Far from wet behind the ears, she’s raised four other children, mostly on her own after her divorce several years ago. She’s never been one to run to the office for every sneeze and sniffle. If she brings one of her children in to be evaluated, it’s usually for a good reason. more»

Interested readers can peruse my latest JAAPA Musings blog post, newly published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Habemus pabulum

pab·u·lum (pæbyələm)
1. something that nourishes an animal or vegetable organism; food; nutriment
2. material for intellectual nourishment
3. pablum
4. nourishment for body, soul and spirit

The announcement came from the basilica loggia overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Rome last evening. “Habemus Papam!” declared the Cardinal Protodeacon. “We have a Pope!”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former Cardinal of Buenos Aires, is now Francis I, the first non-European Pope since the 8th century.

Cardinal Bergoglio is described as a true intellectual by virtue of his Jesuit education, as well as a defender of the poor. A humble man, Bergoglio lived in a small Buenos Aires apartment, did his own cooking, and rode the bus to work. He is said to have washed the feet of AIDS sufferers while a bishop in Argentina.

In presenting himself to the crowds at St. Peter’s, Francis humbly bowed and asked the people to pray for him.

Perhaps Francis might be the one who, like his servant leader namesake, by example of simplicity and humility, could be instrumental in recapturing the hearts and minds of the common people.

Forgive me, Johann

Forgive me, Johann.
You were so quiet, uncomplaining
Your father seemingly so calm
Matter-of-fact in the way
He explained the course
Of your illness.
This can’t be anything serious,
I thought, as I surveyed the scene.
But then—
You cried out in pain
When I squeezed your calves,
You grimaced as you stood
Clutching the exam table,
Unable to take more than
Two halting steps toward
Your father’s outstretched arms.
I lifted you back up,
Tapped your knees with a rubber hammer
No response, no reflexive recoil
The Achilles were the same:
Graciously, your father accepted
A copy of my note
The directions to the hospital
He lifted you into his arms
And carried you out through the door
As though you were a newborn babe
Wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Forgive me, Johann;
I neglected to say good-bye—
My next patient anxiously waited
In the wings.

2013 © Brian T. Maurer