Healing with Poetry

Here are the specific poems which Dr. Bradford S. Weeks, M.D. referenced in his lecture WHY WE DIE presented to esteemed colleagues in at the CLUB of FANO on October 6th 2016.


Please savor these poems – allow them to roll over your tongue like a fine Italian wine and inhale the spirit between the inspired words.




Upon this age that never speaks its mind,
This furtive age, this age endowed with power
To wake the moon with footsteps, fit an oar
Into the rowlocks of the wind, and find
What swims before his prow, what swirls behind—
Upon this gifted age in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric. . .

From Huntsman, What Quarry? by Edna St. Vincent Millay






Trial by Existence

by Robert Frost


EVEN the bravest that are slain
  Shall not dissemble their surprise
On waking to find valor reign,
  Even as on earth, in paradise;
And where they sought without the sword         5
  Wide fields of asphodel fore’er,
To find that the utmost reward
  Of daring should be still to dare.
The light of heaven falls whole and white
  And is not shattered into dyes,         10
The light for ever is morning light;
  The hills are verdured pasture-wise;
The angel hosts with freshness go,
  And seek with laughter what to brave;””
And binding all is the hushed snow         15
  Of the far-distant breaking wave.
And from a cliff-top is proclaimed
  The gathering of the souls for birth,
The trial by existence named,
  The obscuration upon earth.         20
And the slant spirits trooping by
  In streams and cross- and counter-streams
Can but give ear to that sweet cry
  For its suggestion of what dreams!
And the more loitering are turned         25
  To view once more the sacrifice
Of those who for some good discerned
  Will gladly give up paradise.
And a white shimmering concourse rolls
  Toward the throne to witness there         30
The speeding of devoted souls
  Which God makes his especial care.
And none are taken but who will,
  Having first heard the life read out
That opens earthward, good and ill,         35
  Beyond the shadow of a doubt;
And very beautifully God limns,
  And tenderly, life’s little dream,
But naught extenuates or dims,
  Setting the thing that is supreme.         40
Nor is there wanting in the press
  Some spirit to stand simply forth,
Heroic in its nakedness,
  Against the uttermost of earth.
The tale of earth’s unhonored things         45
  Sounds nobler there than ‘neath the sun;
And the mind whirls and the heart sings,
  And a shout greets the daring one.
But always God speaks at the end:
  ‘One thought in agony of strife         50
The bravest would have by for friend,
  The memory that he chose the life;
But the pure fate to which you go
  Admits no memory of choice,
Or the woe were not earthly woe         55
  To which you give the assenting voice.’
And so the choice must be again,
  But the last choice is still the same;
And the awe passes wonder then,
  And a hush falls for all acclaim.         60
And God has taken a flower of gold
  And broken it, and used therefrom
The mystic link to bind and hold
  Spirit to matter till death come.
”˜Tis of the essence of life here,         65
  Though we choose greatly, still to lack
The lasting memory at all clear,
  That life has for us on the wrack
Nothing but what we somehow chose;
  Thus are we wholly stripped of pride         70
In the pain that has but one close,
  Bearing it crushed and mystified.





by Robert Frost


When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.

But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.

Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them

Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

After a rain. They click upon themselves

As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells

Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–

Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,

And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed

So low for long, they never right themselves:

You may see their trunks arching in the woods

Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground

Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair

Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

But I was going to say when Truth broke in

With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm

(Now am I free to be poetical?)

I should prefer to have some boy bend them

As he went out and in to fetch the cows–

Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,

Whose only play was what he found himself,

Summer or winter, and could play alone.

One by one he subdued his father’s trees

By riding them down over and over again

Until he took the stiffness out of them,

And not one but hung limp, not one was left

For him to conquer. He learned all there was

To learn about not launching out too soon

And so not carrying the tree away

Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise

To the top branches, climbing carefully

With the same pains you use to fill a cup

Up to the brim, and even above the brim.

Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,

Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.

And so I dream of going back to be.

It’s when I’m weary of considerations,

And life is too much like a pathless wood

Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs

Broken across it, and one eye is weeping

From a twig’s having lashed across it open.

I’d like to get away from earth awhile

And then come back to it and begin over.

May no fate willfully misunderstand me

And half grant what I wish and snatch me away

Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:

I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,

And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk

Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,

But dipped its top and set me down again.

That would be good both going and coming back.

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.



The Night House

By Billy Collins


Every day the body works in the fields of the world

mending a stone wall

or swinging a sickle through the tall grass ””

the grass of civics, the grass of money ””

and every night the body curls around itself

and listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises

from the body in the middle of the night,

and leaves the trapezoidal bedroom

with its thick, pictureless walls

to sit by herself at the kitchen table

and heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe

and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,

and opens a book on engineering.

Even the conscience awakens

and roams from room to room in the dark,

darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof

in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,

singing a song about the wildness of the sea

until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.

Then, they all will return to the sleeping body

the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

resuming their daily colloquy,

talking to each other or themselves

even through the heat of the long afternoons.

Which is why the body ”” that house of voices ””

sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen

to stare into the distance,

to listen to all its names being called

before bending again to its labor.





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